It emerged as Russian President Vladimir Putin was pictured at an ice hockey training session
THE World Cup in Russia is expected to be the biggest footie flop after sponsors deserted the tainted tournament.
Fifa has failed to attract backing after firms were put off by corruption scandals, hooligan threats and Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy in Syria and Ukraine.
Once-booming Fifa has now lost £700million in the two years since its bosses were arrested.
Figures show just ten sponsors have signed to pump cash into the Russian event next year — 24 short of Fifa’s target figure.
Fifa drew up a target list of 20 sponsors before the last World Cup in Brazil and all were filled a year before kick-off.
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Since the arrest of top officials in 2015, Fifa has secured just one local sponsor, Moscow-based Alfa Bank, and only one international, China’s Wanda Group.
The others, including Coca-Cola, adidas, Hyundai, Visa, McDonald’s and Gazprom all signed before the corruption scandal broke.
Football sponsorship expert Dr Dan Plumley, of Sheffield Hallam University, said: “The Fifa brand has become toxic.
“Companies want to be associated with a brand in a positive light.”
Last month Fifa’s annual accounts showed it lost nearly £300million in 2016 and could lose £400million this year.
Fifa said: “New affiliates will join before the World Cup.”
Putin on his skates
VLADIMIR Putin puck-ered up his action man image at an ice hockey training session.
The Russian president, 64, took to the ice at Shaiba stadium after watching the 2017 F1 Russia Grand Prix in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Stern strongman Putin donned a helmet and skates to battle energetically for the puck in front a cheering crowds.
The age-defying display is the latest of a string of macho poses in which he was snapped barechested riding horses, hunting with a rifle and at the controls of an 007-style mini submarine.
He was joined on the ice on Sunday by three-time Olympic gold skiing medalist Jean-Claude Killy, who was in Sochi lecturing young sport starlets.
Putin spent his 63rd birthday in 2015 on the ice playing hockey with hockey stars against Russian officials and his tycoon chums – and scored seven goals.