Witness at FIFA trial says Fox Sports paid bribes for soccer broadcast rights


Alejandro Burzaco, a former sports marketing executive originally implicated in the 2015 FIFA corruption scandal, alleged Tuesday that six major media companies, including Fox Sports, paid bribes to land broadcasting rights to major soccer tournaments.

Burzaco, testifying at the trial of three former South American soccer officials in New York, said that Fox Sports, Globo (Brazil), Televisa (Mexico), Mediapro (Spain), Full Play (Argentina) and Traffic Group (Brazil) had been involved in the bribery.

The trial stems from the United States Department of Justice’s investigation and indictment of over a dozen high-ranking soccer officials and sports businessmen in 2015.

Burzaco, who headed Torneos y Competencias SA, an Argentine sports media firm, was among them. He initially fled to Europe, but eventually turned himself in to authorities. He is one of multiple cooperating witnesses in the ongoing, wide-ranging case.

According to the Associated Press, Burzaco alleged that the bribes were paid via fake contracts for rights to Copa America and other events. And per the AP:

As evidence of the scheme, prosecutors produced a 2008 agreement for the partnership to $3.7 million to a holding company in Turks and Caicos that was signed by a former Fox executive.

Here’s more from BuzzFeed’s Ken Bensinger on Burzaco’s testimony:

When asked by a U.S. attorney at the trial about Fox’s motivation for buying the broadcast rights, Burzaco said, “Using the TV rights to expand its Fox signal in all of the Americas, from Argentina to the USA.”

Fox broadcasts sports all over the world, on six different continents. It is unclear if the alleged bribery is connected in any way to Fox’s winning of U.S. broadcast rights. Burzaco said that Fox, by paying the bribes, ”gained leverage and rights to broadcast its signal to Argentina” and other parts of the world, per the AP.

Fox Sports denied the allegations in a statement released Tuesday night. “Any suggestion that Fox Sports knew of or approved of any bribes is emphatically false,” it read. “Fox Sports had no operational control of the entity which Burzaco ran. The entity run by Burzaco was a subsidiary of Fox Pan American Sports, which in 2008, at the time of the contract in question, was majority owned by a private equity firm and under their operational and management control.”