June 27, 2015 / 10:56 PM / 4 years ago

South America football may end marketing deal due to U.S. probe

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - South America’s football federation might try to annul its contract with Datisa if the sports marketing company cannot meet its obligations for the current Copa America and the next three editions of the tournament, the federation’s treasurer said.

U.S. investigators have frozen the firm’s bank accounts as part of a probe into alleged corruption in football.

Ending the contract might not be easy because Datisa has already sold some of the marketing and broadcasting rights to third parties such as Coca-Cola, America Movil’s mobile phone company Claro and Mexican television company Televisa he said.

“These are delicate issues and our lawyers are working out what happens next,” Carlos Chavez, the treasurer of CONMEBOL, said in an interview in Chile, the host nation of the current Copa America.

CONMEBOL has sold the marketing and broadcasting rights for this Copa America and the next three editions, in 2016, 2019 and 2023, to Datisa, an Argentine-owned marketing company. The contract is worth around $320 million, or $80 million per tournament.

Datisa had been due to pay CONMEBOL the first $80 million by the end of next week, but because of the freezing of its accounts it has only paid around $25 million.

That left the federation scrambling for cash on the eve of this year’s tournament and it had to dip into a contingency fund to come up with prize money.

Chavez said CONMEBOL was hopeful that once the U.S. investigation was over, Datisa’s bank accounts would be unlocked and the company would meet its obligations.

But he acknowledged the federation might have to consider alternatives, although they would be complicated.

“We can’t annul a contract if Datisa has re-sold that contract, or those rights, to legitimate companies,” he said, adding that CONMEBOL was trying to work out which companies had paid what to Datisa and was talking directly to the companies to recoup the money it is owed.

“If they haven’t complied fully with Datisa then they should comply with us, logically, because they are using our product, the Copa America,” he said.

Chavez said there was no danger that next year’s Copa – an expanded centenary edition to be played in the United States – would be cancelled. He said the South American qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup and club competitions would also not be affected as the marketing and broadcast rights are covered by other contracts.

Editing by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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