Keeping it in the Blatter family
Whoever takes home the World Cup trophy, young Mr Blatter expects to be a winner. That’s Philippe Blatter, nephew of FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter.
President Blatter enthuses about the ‘family of FIFA’ and he practices what he preaches. The most lucrative business opportunities at the World Cup go to a small group of businessmen and now his nephew Philippe Blatter is getting his share.
Philippe has been the boss of Infront, a Swiss-based sports marketing company, since 2006. An important shareholder is billionaire Saudi banker Sheikh Salih Kamel, who put his wealth behind President Blatter’s re-election in 2002. The Sheikh also owns ART, a satellite TV company, delivering exclusive sports programming and the FIFA World Cup to the Arab world.
The Infront company chooses to base itself in the Zug offices that previously housed FIFA’s former marketing partner the ISL company until it went bust in 2001.
ISL had the exclusive contract to film the World Cup for the world’s television networks. Infront has inherited this contract. ISL controlled the archive of World Cup films that command high fees from broadcasters. Infront has also inherited this business.
In the spring of 2008 embarrassed ISL executives admitted in court paying an amazing $100 million in bribes to sports officials, mostly at FIFA, in return for lucrative contracts. One was for rights to sell World Cup TV to broadcasters, earning a reported commission of 25%.
That deal has also been inherited by Philippe Blatter’s Infront – in partnership with the Japanese Dentsu advertising and marketing agency. In 2008 a Dentsu executive was accused of taking more than £2 million in kickbacks from ISL.
It’s a small world of big football profits. Dentsu are also partnering Infront this year in the specially created MATCH Hospitality company. FIFA has given them world-wide rights to sell travel, hotels, 380,000 tickets, catering and ‘hostess services’ to wealthy fans travelling to South Africa. The European concession has gone to the Sportfive company, former employer of FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke.
The majority shareholders in MATCH are the Mexican brothers Jaime and Enrique Byrom, associates of former FIFA president Joao Havelange, who have been trading in precious tickets since the 1986 World Cup.
The Byroms’ Manchester-based company now controls the majority of FIFA’s ticket and accommodation business. They were big in 2002 and 2006, have World Cup ticketing for this year and again in Brazil in 2014.
It has never been explained how the Byroms allowed FIFA vice-president Jack Warner to acquire around 6,000 tickets for the Germany World Cup, making millions of dollars profits.
Some brokers predict a flood of cheap tickets dumped on the market this summer. They say that sponsors, whose clients fear South Africa’s violent image, are taking up less than 40% of the 550,000 they’ve been granted. In past years tickets allocated to sponsors have ended up on the street.
One of the many ticketing scandals of 2006 was the selling of Zimbabwe’s allocation to a former FIFA employee. He is fireproof; he worked in FIFA’s finance department and knows FIFA’s tightest secret - how much money Sepp Blatter trousers every year.
The franchise to sell this year’s allocation of tickets for Zimbabwe has been awarded by MATCH to Philip Chiyangwa, a relative of President Robert Mugabe who claims to have already sold $600,000 worth of VIP hospitality packages.
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