Witness claims Fox used inside information to secure World Cup rights

Instead, Farrell focused on the long and tortured relationship between the Burzaco-run Argentine company Torneos y Competencias and the Fox unit it had entered into a joint venture with to control football rights. What started as bribes to a handful of South American soccer officials had, by 2011, expanded to nearly a dozen men threatening to cancel lucrative tournament contracts popular Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana – which had been sold well below market value – though they did not receive their annual kickbacks.

In 2010, Burzaco said, he told López about the kickbacks at a beachfront hotel in Florida, where the two had been to watch the Super Bowl. Burzaco testified that he told López a second time during a meeting at Fox headquarters in midtown Manhattan later that year. In 2012, after Martínez took over the unit’s Latin American operations, Burzaco said he informed him of the bribes over coffee at a Dean & DeLuca cafe in Rockefeller Center.

One of the main recipients of bribes was Grondona, who at the time was FIFA vice-president, chairman of the football body’s finance committee and president of the Argentine football association. According to Burzaco’s testimony, when FIFA opened the bidding for the English-language rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in October 2011, López contacted him to say Fox planned to bid. López, Burzaco said, then asked him to reach out to Grondona “to let him know that any help would be welcome.”

Burzaco, eager to help his main business partner, who helped maintain Torneos’ solvency by contracting it to produce sports content throughout Latin America, did as he was asked. Grondona, he recalled, said he would do what he could but it would be difficult as FIFA was under intense scrutiny following its controversial votes a year earlier awarding prizes. World Cups in Russia (in 2018) and Qatar. Either way, Grondona was quick to relay the news that the rights were as good as Fox’s.

“Mr. López was very excited,” Burzaco recalled on the stand, saying López called him his “best accomplishment within Fox.” According to Burzaco, a number of other Fox officials, including Chase Carey, then vying to take over the company, and Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch himself all expressed their delight at acquiring the award.

As for Grondona, he summoned Burzaco for a private meeting in Buenos Aires immediately after handing the World Cup rights to Fox.

“‘Listen, Alejandro, I did this favor for you and Fox,'” Burzaco recalled. “‘But that’s the last time I’m doing it for free.'”

Grondona, who had been a primary target of the Justice Department investigation, died of an aortic aneurysm in July 2014. Seven months later, FIFA announced that Fox had also obtained the rights for the 2026 World Cup. This time, ESPN wasn’t even allowed to bid.

nytimes sport

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