The 2006 World Cup was won by Coca-Cola. Of the 15 corporations that had paid tens of millions to be associated with the tournament, its name had been the most recognised. The key, said its jubilant head of sponsorship, Steve Cumming, was Coca-Cola's relationship with Wayne Rooney. "You do not get to the front pages of the tabloids easily," he said. "But we got there time and time again by combining two key elements; the World Cup trophy and Wayne Rooney."
This year, Coca-Cola publicly terminated its association with the Manchester United striker. In the wake of the bribery scandal that has coursed through Fifa like an open sewer, the company issued a statement that the allegations were "distressing".
Coca-Cola dumped Rooney; might it also dump the World Cup? No chance. There are other footballers than Rooney. There is only one World Cup and Coca-Cola has been paying to be part of it since 1970.
In the four years leading up to the 2010 tournament in South Africa, Coca-Cola and Fifa's five other "partners" – Adidas, Emirates, Hyundai, Sony and Visa - each paid between $24m–$44m annually to be part of the event. These figures give them the illusion of influence. The World Cup is the only thing that Fifa does that makes money. It has only three revenue streams: the sale of media rights, sponsorship and hospitality. Ticket sales go to the organising country.
These are not so much streams as waterfalls the size of Niagara, with profits for the 2010 tournament estimated to been $2bn. Fifa would cope with Coca-Cola's withdrawal with a single phone call to Purchase, New York, the headquarters of Pepsi, whose products were confiscated if they were taken into World Cup stadiims in South Africa.
When Visa paid $200m to become the World Cup's official credit card, it supplanted Mastercard, which sued. Sepp Blatter will comfortably survive this sabre-rattling by some unlikely knights, who have nowhere else to go. Coca-Cola is not paying $3m a month to be part of the squalid circus in Zurich but to be associated with the 2014 World Cup, where there will be a new Fifa president. It will be staged in Brazil, football's spiritual home, with cumulative viewing figures around the 26 billion of 2006.The television stations that have paid Fifa millions for the rights will broadcast from Copacabana beach, where beautiful young bodies will be kicking Adidas footballs, talking on Sony mobiles and drinking Coke.