* IMG and MLS marketing arm awarded rights to tournament
* Tournament had been in doubt after previous deal scrapped
* 16-team competition to be hosted in U.S., feature Brazil
By Simon Evans
Dec 2 (Reuters) - Sports marketing agency IMG and North American company Soccer United Marketing (SUM) have been awarded the commercial rights to next year’s centenary Copa America tournament in the United States, a spokesman for CONCACAF told Reuters on Wednesday.
The deal comes after a tender which saw 12 firms submit bids to handle the rights which include sponsorship arrangements and a range of broadcast deals. The rights have been reawarded after a corruption scandal surrounding the original winner.
SUM is the marketing wing of Major League Soccer (MLS) and IMG, owned by talent agency WME, is a global player in sports rights and the management of athletes.
The competition, to be played next June and feature Argentina and Brazil, had been in doubt after the original commercial deals featured in a U.S Department of Justice indictment of soccer officials and sports marketing executives.
The 16-nation tournament is being jointly run by South American confederation CONMEBOL and CONCACAF, the governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean, and will be the highest profile official soccer competition played in the United States since the 1994 World Cup.
The tournament was only made possible after the confederations reclaimed the broadcast and sponsor rights from Datisa, a marketing firm that featured in the DOJ indictments.
The U.S. Soccer Federation had made the cancellation of contracts with Datisa and other deals a condition of hosting the tournament in the U.S.
The original commercial rights for the tournament have been a central part in the unfolding scandal that has embroiled FIFA, world soccer’s governing body.
Suspended CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb, who had been a key figure in creating the 2016 tournament, was arrested in May along with Eugenio Figueuredo and Nicolas Leoz, both ex-presidents of CONMEBOL.
The three were among 14 football officials and sports marketing executives who were indicted for racketeering, conspiracy and corruption by the DOJ in May.
The three main shareholders in Datisa, Alejandro Burcazo, Hugo Jinkis and his son Mariano Jinkis, were all indicted.
The DOJ indictment alleged the trio had paid up to $110 million in bribes for a series of lucrative media rights from the two confederations.
The process for the replacement rights package was monitored by a independent third party advisory firm from the United States and CONMEBOL president Juan Angel Napout said that approach would be a model for the future.
“We are very pleased to have participated in this process along with CONCACAF and U.S. Soccer, for the commercial rights of Copa America Centenario 2016,” Napout said in a statement issued to Reuters.
“This commitment is an integral part of the governance reforms taking place at CONMEBOL in order to ensure transparency and benefit all our member associations.”
ESP Properties, a division of WPP, and SJX Partners, a division of CSM Sports and Entertainment, will assist IMG and SUM with sponsorship efforts for the tournament.
All 10 nations from CONMEBOL, including powerhouses Argentina and Brazil, will play in the tournament while the United States, Mexico, Jamaica and Costa Rica feature along with two other CONCACAF teams.
The tournament will be held from June 3-26 in 10 venues across the United States, the first time the world’s oldest continental tournament has been held outside of South America. (Reporting By Simon Evans; Editing by Keith Weir)