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By ESPN Staff

FIFA fires employees over sponsorship dealings

ZURICH, Switzerland -- FIFA, soccer's governing body, fired its director of marketing and TV and three others in the division Tuesday for dishonest sponsorship negotiations with Visa and Mastercard.

Jerome Valcke, Tom Houseman, Robert Lampman and Stefan Schuster were let go following a ruling in a U.S. court that said MasterCard Inc. could sponsor the 2010 and 2014 World Cups because FIFA didn't play fair when it awarded the rights to credit card rival Visa International.

"The FIFA employees who had conducted negotiations with Visa and MasterCard were accused of repeated dishonesty during negotiations and of giving false information to the FIFA deciding bodies in question," FIFA said in a statement.

"Even though the judgment has proved to be very biased in favor of MasterCard, the fact cannot be overlooked that FIFA's negotiations breached its business principles. FIFA cannot possibly accept such conduct among its own employees."

Last Thursday, a federal court in New York ruled that MasterCard can sponsor the next two World Cup soccer tournaments even though FIFA had awarded the sponsorships to Visa. The judge blamed FIFA for misleading Mastercard, which had a right of first refusal after sponsoring the 2006 tournament in Germany. MasterCard is the country's second largest credit card brand behind Visa.

FIFA said it is considering lodging an appeal against the court's judgment, while also seeking suitable solutions for all parties involved.

Visa said it negotiated its global sponsorship agreement in good faith after FIFA assured it the deal was valid and did not conflict with any of MasterCard's rights.

Valcke declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press because he only learned of his dismissal on Monday.