Visa ousts MasterCard in £150m World Cup tie

LONDON - Visa International has signed up to sponsor the Fifa World Cup for the first time, breaking up the soccer governing body's long-standing association with rival credit-card brand MasterCard.

The lucrative eight-year deal, which also covers the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, is believed to be worth in the region of £150m.

Visa joins Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai and Sony as a top-tier partner after Fifa opted to restructure its commercial packages post-2006, reducing the number of primary sponsors from 15 to six.

Visa's emergence as a Fifa partner comes as a surprise, given MasterCard's long-established ties with football -- it recently renewed its backing of the Uefa Champions League and the European Championships.

According to industry sources, MasterCard walked away from a contract renewal, although its reasons for doing so remain unclear.

Relations between MasterCard and Fifa have become strained over the past year, following criticism of Fifa's approach to selling sponsorship packages and an EU order to halt a system that allowed only MasterCard holders to buy World Cup tickets.

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