It’s no secret that FIFA is a terrible and corrupt organization. The length and reach of that corruption is still under investigation, however. A recent Reuters report on some apparently shady radio deals between FIFA and Futbol de Primera, an American broadcast company partly owned by beloved soccer commentator Andres Cantor, speaks volumes about that corruption.
The investigation suggests that Cantor’s company was receiving preferential treatment from FIFA on radio deals. In the early 2000s, Futbol de Primera obtained a 20-year contract – extending from 2002 to 2022 – to the rights of Spanish-language and US-based radio transmissions of the World Cups.
To some, however, the deal was highly questionable. Joaquin Blaya, a former chief executive of a Miami-based rival broadcaster who had the radio rights for the 1998 World Cup, narrates how Sepp Blatter personally told him that he had a deal for the 2002 and 2006 competitions after he offered 15 million dollars, only to later find out that the contract was given to Futbol de Primera for less money.
But there’s always another side to the story. Alejandro Gutman, Cantor’s partner in Futbol de Primera, confirmed that their company got the contracts with less money, but stated that Blaya’s offer simply came too late. “When Unica decided to go and offer this money, we had already made a deposit and signed the contract,” Gutman said to Reuters. “President Blatter had already told us ‘welcome to the FIFA family.’”
Cantor’s partner also argues that Futbol de Primera got the contract because their company had advantages over Blaya, such as a wider distribution network and specialization in soccer, which might sound reasonable, especially since Joaquin Blaya’s company went bankrupt in 2003.
Citing confidentiality issues, Futbol de Primera has kept contract details and earnings private, so we will just have to wait and see if FIFA’s muddied waters become clearer as the U.S.-led prosecution of top FIFA officials sheds some light on this issue.