Every new scandal that pops up around soccer peels back a layer of the corruption rampant in organizing the world’s most popular sport. This week is no different: The New York Times is reporting that investigations by United States and Swiss law enforcement officials have exposed dozens of people and companies that allegedly conspired to illegally reap profits from broadcasting and sponsorship deals tied to the World Cup.
The Mountrigi Management Group is at the center of these new investigations, after the company quietly amassed exclusive broadcast rights to the World Cup through 2030 in much of the Americas, from Mexico down to Argentina. In most cases, a deal of this size would be announced publicly, but Mountrigi’s bid managed to fly under the radar. That is, until US and Switzerland officials accused FIFA’s former top administrator of accepting bribes in return for lucrative TV contracts.
Many questioned how a relative unknown could swoop in and nab the 16-nation contract, but with a little digging, it was revealed that Mountrigi is a wholly-owned subsidiary of giant Mexican television network, Grupo Televisa.
According to Frank Dunne, the editor of the industry newsletter TV Sports Markets, Mountrigi paid about $190 million for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup rights. They were supported in their dealings with FIFA by Argentine businessman Alejandro Burzaco, who pleaded guilty to bribing soccer officials so that the company he ran, Torneos y Competencias, would be awarded rights to the biggest regional tournaments last year.
In court papers related to Torneos’ $112.8 million prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice, prosecutors also implicated Televisa of foul play. The papers stated that an affiliate of a major broadcasting company headquartered in Latin America helped to pay millions in bribes to get the rights in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay for the next four World Cups. Mountrigi, the Televisa affiliate, was awarded those rights and immediately sold them to Burzaco and his company. This news comes on the heels of Televisa Chairman Emilio Azcárraga stepping down from his post.
Burzaco had allegedly funneled funds for bribery over the years to some of FIFA’s most important officials, including the late Julio Grondona, who served as president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA). Televisa said last year that neither its employees nor those of Mountrigi had ever “paid any bribes nor any kickback to FIFA officials related to the acquisition of rights.” However, the investigation done by the Swiss implicates that Burzaco had paid bribes allegedly on their behalf.