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Swiss family Blatter extends sporting influence

Philippe Blatter is the nephew of Fifa boss, Sepp Blatter (Infront Sports & Media)

(infront sports & media)

A nephew of Joseph Blatter, president of football's world governing body Fifa, has been made chief executive at Zug-based marketing firm Infront Sports & Media.

Infront was awarded the media and global sales rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups by Fifa, but the organisation denied that it played a part in the appointment of Philippe Blatter.

The Blatter family name already carries a heavy resonance in world sport. Joseph, known as Sepp, has been in charge at Zurich-based Fifa since 1998 and is also a member of the International Olympic Committee. Sepp's brother, Marco, is director of the Swiss Olympic Association.

Swiss-born Philippe, 42, joined Infront as deputy chief executive in December 2005 after 11 years with management consulting firm McKinsey, with whom he conducted work for Fifa in 2000.

He shadowed outgoing Infront chief executive Oscar Frei to learn the ropes before taking over at the helm this month.

Blatter appointment

"The appointment of Philippe Blatter had nothing to do with Infront's working business relationship with Fifa. He has worked extensively in the area of sports business and is a strong addition to our successful organisation," Infront spokesman Jörg Polzer told swissinfo.

Fifa spokesman Andreas Herren also denied that Sepp Blatter had anything to do with the appointment of Philippe at Infront, pointing out that last year Infront lost out in the race for the global broadcasting rights to the 2010 World Cup.

But British journalist Andrew Jennings, who wrote a recent book criticising Fifa's past business dealings, described the appointment as "odd".

"There is a very dubious background to Fifa awarding [media] rights contracts [for previous World Cups]," he told swissinfo.

"We look at the new [management at Infront], who are of course all scrupulously clean, but eyebrows have been raised in the business world about Philippe Blatter's relationship with Fifa when he was with McKinsey.

"It screams out that this is an odd situation."

Bankrupt

Infront Sports & Media was created from the wreckage of a turbulent chapter in the sale of World Cup broadcasting rights.

Problems started when the Swiss-based firm ISMM-ISL, which had won the rights to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups from Fifa, went bankrupt in 2001.

German company Kirchmedia stepped in, but also ran into financial difficulties in early 2002. Kirchmedia's subsidiary, Kirchsport, was peeled off from the group and took the rights with it. Three years ago it was finally rebranded as Infront Sports & Media after a management buyout.

Zurich prosecutors have been investigating the collapse of ISMM-ISL and its links to Fifa for some time and Sepp Blatter survived a grilling from the Fifa executive concerning his part in transactions with the collapsed marketing company.

However, there is no suggestion that Infront, a totally separate entity, was involved in Fifa's past dealings with ISMM-ISL.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

Key facts

The main shareholders in Infront Sports & Media are former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus and Swiss venture company Jacobs Holdings.
Infront markets the International Ice Hockey Federation, nine international football teams including the German Football Federation, Formula 1 racing team Toyota Motorsport, the European Handball Federation and a variety of winter sports.
The company will also market the Chinese football team in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 World Cup.

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In brief

This year's World Cup in Germany was broadcast to more than 200 countries.

Infront's subsidiary company Host Broadcast Services has been named as host broadcaster of both the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Fifa has awarded the Asia region broadcasting rights for all Fifa events between 2007 and 2014, including the 2010 and 2014 World Cups (excluding Japan), jointly to Infront and Japanese advertising company Dentsu.

Andrew Jennings published a book this year entitled Foul! The Secret World of Fifa: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals. In May, Fifa withdrew a request for an injunction banning sales of the book in Switzerland.

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