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Adidas to end sponsorship of IAAF over doping claims, says report

German sportswear company Adidas is to end its sponsorship agreement with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) early in light of an athletics doping scandal, the BBC has reported.  26 Jan 2016

Jan Runau, Adidas' chief corporate communication officer said in an emailed statement that the BBC report is "not accurate" and that Adidas is still currently in a partnership with the IAAF.

"Adidas has a clear anti-doping policy in place," Runau said. "Therefore, we are in close contact with the IAAF to learn more about their reform process."

Adidas has an 11-year sponsorship deal with the IAAF, worth a reported £23 million to the athletics body, although the BBC has reported that the value of the deal may actually exceed that amount.

Adidas has previously expressed concerns about the corruption scandal that has hit football governing body FIFA over the past year, but the company remains a FIFA sponsor, said sports sponsorship expert James Earl of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

One possible reason why FIFA sponsors have been reluctant to pull out of their sponsorship deals is because they lack the express contractual rights to do so, Earl said, "particularly given that the FIFA 'crisis' has largely centred around the allegedly corrupt actions of individual FIFA representatives, not FIFA itself".

There is a risk that, if Adidas unilaterally terminated its FIFA agreement, this would expose it to a claim of wrongful termination, Earl said.

"The current FIFA/Adidas deal runs to 2030, meaning the potential value of a claim by FIFA against Adidas for wrongful termination would be considerable," he said.

"That said, it must be remembered that Adidas has a very long, deep and high profile relationship with FIFA. They have been supplying the World Cup match ball since 1970. While Adidas also has a long history of association with the IAAF, through kit supply for, and sponsorship of, individual athletes, Adidas don't have quite the same historical and commercial ties to IAAF as they do to FIFA," he said.

"The IAAF scandal relates to alleged doping, which has a direct impact on the field of play. This is to be contrasted with the FIFA scandal, which relates primarily to financial probity, or lack thereof, and vote-buying. From a PR perspective, especially given Adidas are a sports company, I suspect doping is perceived to be a more serious issue," Earl said.

"There is also a more pragmatic view that the FIFA deal is simply worth more commercially to Adidas than its arrangement with the IAAF, and this would in turn make the option of terminating with FIFA far less attractive – indeed, it may not have been a commercially viable option," Earl said.