DUBAI (REUTERS) - Qatar Airways said on Sunday (May 7) it has signed a deal with global soccer body Fifa to be one of the official sponsors and the official airline of the next two World Cups, in Russia and Qatar.
The state-owned carrier did not disclose the value of the deal, which it said would cover the Confederations Cup 2017, the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Club World Cup and the Women's World Cup in 2019 and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The airline joins Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group, Adidas, Visa and Hyundai as official partners of Fifa, the highest of the three tiers of Fifa sponsorship.
Rival Middle East carrier Emirates was a Fifa sponsor until 2014 when it said it would not renew its contract following months of calls for sponsors to respond robustly to allegations of bribery to secure the 2022 World Cup for Qatar.
Dubai-based Emirates said in 2015 it could be interested in renewing a deal to sponsor the World Cup in the future.
Fifa said in a statement that the deal "represents one of the biggest sporting sponsorships in the world and the largest in the history of Qatar Airways."
Qatar Airways is a major sponsor of Spanish football team Barcelona, and sponsors other sporting teams and events.
Swiss-based Fifa, whose reputation has been tarnished by the worst corruption scandal in its history, still has a large number of vacant slots for its second tier World Cup sponsors and third tier regional supporters.
Several dozen soccer officials, including several occupying senior Fifa positions, were indicted in the United States in 2015 on corruption-related chances, while disgraced former Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who was not among them, was banned in 2015 for six years by Fifa's own ethics committee for ethics violations at the height of the scandal.
Fifa needs sponsorship to help reach its target of a US$100 million surplus for the four-yearly cycle ending at the 2018 World Cup.
It is also under pressure to increase its revenue after president Gianni Infantino, elected last year, promised to increase payouts to its 211 member federations to develop the sport.
Fifa made a loss of US$391 million in 2016, which it blamed partly on increased legal costs following the scandal, and has forecast a US$489 million loss in 2017 but then expects to turn a US$1.07 billion profit in 2018 when the World Cup is held in Russia.