The German sporting goods group is the last major sponsor from Europe to support the World Cup in Qatar. Fifa doesn’t care about the creeping withdrawal of the Europeans. It is now doing billions in business with companies that mainly come from China.

The football World Cup in Qatar has only one major sponsor who comes from Europe: Adidas. And the sporting goods giant from Herzogenaurach should never have found it so difficult to defend its commitment. The previous World Cup host country, Russia, had been controversial since its attack on Crimea in 2014 and was therefore not a dream destination from the sponsors’ point of view. Qatar, however, is the low point viewed from a Western European perspective: a tournament in winter in a country that, by local standards, hardly anyone believes is sufficiently concerned with the issue of human rights by local standards.

There are a total of 14 corporate partners and World Cup sponsors appearing at this year’s World Cup. Most come from Asia, with most of them from China, a sign that the tournament Europeans hailed as their invention is slowly moving to another continent. This time, the illustrious circle of sponsors includes, for example, the Chinese household appliance manufacturer Hisense, the real estate giant Wanda Group also from China, the Korean car group Hyundai-Kia and the Indian technology group Byju’s.

There are also regular sponsors from the USA such as Coca-Cola and Visa. And of course Adidas. The Germans have been the official partner of the world football association Fifa for more than 40 years and have secured this right until 2030. The company provides clothing for ball boys, helpers and referees. Above all, however, Adidas provides the game ball.

With its commitment, the company, which is currently replacing its boss Kasper Rorsted with the previous captain of the competitor Puma Björn Gulden, wants to defend its football business – after all, this is where the company’s roots lie. The German group had therefore always launched sensational advertising campaigns in the course of the World Cup. In 2014 he had national player Lukas Podolski hold a bloody beef heart in his hand and also staged other German national players in a martial way: Bastian Schweinsteiger appeared as a fierce tribal warrior with a spear, Mesut Özil as a military leader, Manuel Neuer as a samurai with a sword in goal. This time, the topic of commonality is emphasized much more tamely in the official commercial. The sporting goods manufacturer is celebrating the coming together of the global football family at the tournament – including Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema and Jude Bellingham.

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According to the Handelsblatt, all sponsors together will pay FIFA $1.53 billion for their advertising rights this year. Exactly what Adidas pays is so far the secret of the contractual partners. The football association only earns more money with a single item from the sale of television broadcasting rights: 2.64 billion dollars flow from this. Overall, Fifa expects proceeds of 4.66 billion dollars from this World Cup. She did everything right with it. According to its own financial report, it closed the last World Cup year 2018 with a net result of 1.8 billion dollars. The national associations such as the DFB also earn a good share of Fifa’s income.

And Adidas doesn’t let its commitment spoil it. The world’s second largest sporting goods manufacturer after Nike presents its attitude as follows: Diversity and equality are the foundation of everything, as can be seen from the homepage. That doesn’t quite fit with the behavior of the World Cup ambassador in Qatar, who recently described homosexuals as people with “mental disabilities” in a television documentary.

But Adidas has a statement ready: the Germans told Amnesty International that they are supporting Fifa and the Qatari World Cup Organizing Committee to address “all issues related to workers’ rights arising from the hosting of the 2022 World Cup, including the necessary remedial action and, where appropriate, adequate compensation for workers and their families.”

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Amnesty, along with two other human rights organizations, surveyed all sponsors. After all, “as a company, according to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, they are responsible for using their influence over governments or business partners to prevent or mitigate negative impacts on human rights,” says an Amnesty spokeswoman. These principles are often even part of the company’s own corporate philosophy.

The meager yield: A total of four of the 14 sponsors who were contacted responded, specifically besides Adidas, AB InBev/Budweiser, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s. Conversely, this means: Ten are silent, these are Visa, Hyundai-Kia, Wanda Group, Qatar Energy, Qatar Airways, Vivo, Hisense, Mengniu, Crypto and Byju’s.

The donors are in a dilemma. On the one hand, they are concerned that the negative image that has surrounded the tournament, especially in Germany, could put a strain on their own brand. On the other hand, they see the danger that if a critical statement is made, the original idea behind the commitment will not be given a chance.

The result is a ball dance of the sponsors. Coca-Cola says it “continues to be in discussions with sponsors and FIFA to explore how to scale up the progress made in Qatar to further expand access to effective legal remedies for migrant workers.” AB InBev/Budweiser supports “access to Procedures that can provide just redress to migrant workers affected by adverse impacts.” Budweiser shot a low-key World Cup spot.

In it, viewers see players and happy fans, with no connection to Qatar. Only the World Cup logo at the end of the film indicates the tournament. McDonald’s “will continue to work with FIFA, human rights experts and other sponsors to drive positive human rights change, including supporting processes that facilitate access to justice, both at the World Cup and in areas where in which we operate”. McDonald’s will not fry a World Cup burger in its German fast food restaurants this year.

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For Adidas, however, the World Cup has a special meaning: The listed sporting goods company is currently not in top form. Mainly because of problems in China, he had lowered his forecasts in the summer, which caused the share price to slide and accelerated the departure of company boss Kasper Rorsted. The group has lost more than 50 percent of its value on the stock exchange in the past twelve months. He was hoping for momentum for business from the World Cup. At least in Germany, the wind is now blowing against him.

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