The bitterly contested tug of war between MasterCard and Visa
over the sponsorship rights to the World Cup football tournament
looks set to rumble on, following the latest legal development in
A US appeals court has ruled that a December 2006 court ruling
that granted MasterCard the World Cup sponsorship rights for the
2010 and 2014 tournaments must be revisited and clarified; this
could yet lead to MasterCard losing its sponsorship rights to
The two networks are locking horns with each other and with
world football governance body Fédération Internationale de
Football Association (FIFA) over who gets the exclusive advertising
and sponsorship rights to the world’s most-watched sporting event.
The next tournament takes place in South Africa in 2010.
The case began in April 2006 when FIFA awarded the lucrative
sponsorship rights to Visa, ending MasterCard’s 16-year association
with the World Cup. MasterCard retaliated by launching a legal
challenge in the US courts, arguing that its deal with FIFA was
binding and gave MasterCard first refusal on any new deal. This was
underlined by the December 206 US court ruling, in which the
overseeing judge, US District Judge Loretta Preska, stated that
FIFA had “lied repeatedly to MasterCard”.
Need for clarification
This sparked an appeal from FIFA, and a US appeals court has now
ruled that Judge Preska needs to revisit her decision and clarify a
number of points, including whether a 2006 contract between FIFA
and MasterCard superseded one from 2002.
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FIFA said the appeals court ruling was what it “has already long
requested, that it clarify the question of which contract between
FIFA and MasterCard is valid. In this respect, FIFA is very pleased
with the judgment.”
Visa had no immediate comment and was not a defendant in the
case. The appeals court last year rejected Visa’s bid to become a
party to the lawsuit.