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Witness Says Fox Used Inside Information to Win World Cup Rights


As a substitute, Farrell has focused on the long and tortured relationship between the Argentine firm Burzaco led, Torneos y Competencias, and the Fox unit with which it had entered right into a three way partnership to regulate soccer rights. What began as bribes to a handful of South American soccer officials had, by 2011, expanded to just about a dozen men who threatened to cancel lucrative contracts for the favored Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana tournaments — which had been sold for much under market value — in the event that they didn’t receive their annual bribes.

In 2010, Burzaco said, he told López concerning the bribes at a beachside hotel in Florida, where each men had traveled to look at the Super Bowl. Burzaco testified that he told López a second time during a gathering in Fox’s corporate headquarters in midtown Manhattan later that 12 months. In 2012, after Martínez took over the unit’s Latin American operations, Burzaco said he filled him in on the bribes over coffee at a Dean & DeLuca cafe in Rockefeller Center.

Considered one of the first recipients of bribes was Grondona, who on the time served as a FIFA vp, the chairman of the soccer body’s finance committee and the president of the Argentine soccer association. In line with Burzaco’s testimony, when FIFA in October 2011 opened bidding for the English language rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, López reached out to him to inform him Fox planned to bid. López, Burzaco said, then asked him to succeed in out to Grondona “to let him know that any help could be welcome.”

Burzaco, desperate to help his primary business partner, which helped keep Torneos solvent by hiring it to provide sports content throughout Latin America, did as he was asked. Grondona, he recalled, said he would do what he could but that it could be difficult because FIFA was under intense scrutiny within the wake of its controversial votes a 12 months earlier awarding World Cups to Russia (in 2018) and Qatar. Regardless, Grondona soon relayed the news that the rights were pretty much as good as Fox’s.

“Mr. López was very excited,” Burzaco recalled on the stand, saying López called it his “best accomplishment inside Fox.” In line with Burzaco, various other Fox officials, including Chase Carey, then in line to take over the corporate, and the Fox Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch himself all expressed delight at having acquired the prize.

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

“‘Look, Alejandro, I did this favor to you and Fox,’” Burzaco recalled him saying. “‘But that is the last time I do it free of charge.’”

Grondona, who had been one among the first targets of the Justice Department investigation, died of an aortic aneurysm in July 2014. Seven months later, FIFA announced that Fox had been awarded rights to the 2026 World Cup, too. This time, ESPN hadn’t even been allowed to bid.

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