FIFA World Cup: ESPN exec describes how broadcast was lost

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A former ESPN executive said in U.S. District Court on Tuesday that his company’s bid to televise the World Cup led to two former former executives accused of bribing officials to undermine competing offers. He testified that he may have been sabotaged by FOX executives, and emphasized how big money corrupted football.

Former ESPN president John Skipper said in federal court in New York that ESPN and Univision had jointly bid $900 million. one in Qatar.

Despite ESPN’s hefty bids for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, FIFA gave the US English rights to Fox, whose bid was low.

Government lawyers say millions of dollars in bribes were fed into a secret no-bid contracting system, allowing corrupt soccer executives to profit from the scheme, ultimately allowing Fox to air the game. said to have made it possible.

Prosecutors allege that the reward allowed former Fox executives Helan Lopez and Carlos Martínez to obtain classified information from high-ranking football officials, including FIFA. A $125 million bid helped secure the rights to the English version in the United States. Telemundo, a division of NBCUniversal’s Comcast Corp., acquired the rights to the US Spanish version for about $600 million.

“Disappointing,” Skipper said. “Actually, I was angry.”

Skipper thought the highest bidder would win, but the process became more complicated when ESPN’s offer was turned down and soccer officials began bidding for a second round.

Under questioning by defense attorneys, Skipper admitted he had no idea if anything illegal was going on behind the scenes.

New York-based Fox Corp., which was split from its international channel subsidiary during a 2019 restructuring, has denied involvement in the bribery scandal and is not a defendant in the case.

In a statement, the company said it cooperated fully.

The trial is the latest development in a tangled corruption scandal that goes back nearly a decade and involves more than 30 media and football executives and officials.

Skipper’s testimony corroborates the statements of government star witness Alejandro Bursaco, who said he and a former Fox executive were trying to get the televised rights to the Copa Libertadores, the southern hemisphere’s biggest annual competition. He testified for 11 days that he conspired to bribe South American football officials. And we’ll help you win the broadcast rights to the World Cup, the sport’s most profitable competition.

Lawyers for Lopez and Martinez allege former executives were duped, and one defense lawyer accused Brusaco of masterminding bribes.

Burzaco was a former business partner of Lopez and Martinez and headed their marketing company in Argentina. He has cooperated with previous football corruption investigations since he was arrested in a bribery case in 2015. Critics claim he is cooperating to avoid prison.

Burzaco pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges. He testified in 2017 that all three of his South Americans on the FIFA Council took bribes of $1 million to help Qatar bid to host the 2022 World Cup. bottom.

Skipper said ESPN originally bid $250 million in 2011 for the U.S. English-language rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The company raised it to $450 million in the second round. Combined with Univision’s proposed donation, the total came to $900 million for him.

“We wanted to blow the tender,” he said.

ESPN has long held the rights to broadcast the World Cup in the United States and was the first to air soccer’s premier sporting event before it became well-received by American audiences.

As the sport’s audience grew, so did the economic prestige of the World Cup.

ESPN paid $100 million for the rights to broadcast sporting events in 2010 and 2014.

The dramatic increase speaks to the growing importance of sporting events, Skipper said.

The World Cup final, held in Qatar in December, was the most-watched football match in the United States, according to TV viewers’ estimates, with Argentina beating France in a dramatic title-decision match.

As a courtesy to help FIFA grow football’s viewership, Skipper hoped football officials would allow ESPN to match or beat competitors’ offerings, but not to do so. was not requested.

So far, more than 20 people have pleaded guilty and two have been convicted at trial in connection with the US-led probe into tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks at football’s highest level. Four corporate entities also pleaded guilty. Four others were indicted, but he reached an agreement with the government to avoid prosecution.

FIFA, the governing body of football, said it was not involved in any fraud or conspiracy and was merely a bystander as the scandal unfolded.

Nevertheless, the scandal brought the organization under global scrutiny. Since then, I have tried to polish that damaged image.

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