U.S. News

Visa to Sponsor 2010 and 2014 Soccer World Cups

By Reuters

Visa International said on Wednesday that it has reached a deal to sponsor the 2010 and 2014 World Cup soccer tournaments.

Visa, owner of the world's largest credit card network, said the 8-year deal with the Federation Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, allows it access to competitions, special events and development programs worldwide.

The deal between Visa and FIFA, soccer's governing body, follows the $90 million settlement on June 21 of a legal fight between FIFA and Visa rival MasterCard, which had sponsored the tournament for 16 years.

MasterCard had sued FIFA in April 2006 after the soccer group awarded the coveted sponsorship for the next two World Cups to Visa. MasterCard claimed it had right of first refusal on future sponsorship of the tournament, the world's most watched sports event.

At the time of the settlement MasterCard said it decided to settle for business reasons and that it no longer wanted to work with FIFA.

Visa will pay $170 million for the sponsorship, $10 million less than it had originally bid, FIFA President Joseph Blatter said on Wednesday.

"We look forward to activating our FIFA partnership," said John Elkins, executive vice president at Visa International. "We know first hand how valuable a global sporting property can be in driving business."

Visa, which already sponsors the Olympic Games and the Rugby World Cup, is preparing to combine Visa USA, Visa International and Visa Canada into Visa, which is planning to go public by early next year.

The 2010 World Cup will be held in South Africa.