The chief executive of German sportswear maker Adidas said Wednesday it stood by its sponsorship of this year’s football World Cup in Russia, as tensions mount between Moscow and London over the poisoning of an ex-spy on British soil.
Football gear makes up a smaller share of Adidas’ fast-growing business than in the past, but the firm remains keen to see the balls it has provided to FIFA since 1970 and the shirts of its sponsored teams adorn TV screens worldwide.
“We do hope that the tournament goes on, because isolation is not the best way to resolution” of tensions with Russia, Kasper Rorsted told journalists at the group’s Bavarian headquarters.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to tell lawmakers Wednesday how her government will retaliate against Russia for its alleged role in the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent.
May has said it was “highly likely” that Russia was behind the attack, either directly or because Moscow had “lost control” of the poison.
“How can we go to (President Vladimir) Putin’s World Cup now?” the front page of influential tabloid the Daily Mail asked Tuesday.
The British government has so far threatened a boycott by officials and dignitaries, but there are as yet no plans to withdraw the England squad.
If it materialises, a boycott would not harm Adidas’ business as much as it might have in the past, with the beautiful game now accounting for around 2.0 billion euros ($2.5 billion) of the group’s 21.2 billion euros in sales last year.
“The times are gone when one event can make a huge impact on the overall number,” CEO Rorsted said.