Watchmaker backtracks on Woods sponsorship announcement

Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer tonight back-tracked on an apparent vow to stick by troubled golfer Tiger Woods, raising the prospect that it could be next in line to cut ties with the sportsman.

Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer tonight back-tracked on an apparent vow to stick by troubled golfer Tiger Woods, raising the prospect that it could be next in line to cut ties with the sportsman.

Earlier in the day it had been reported that the firm would continue to back Woods despite a fall from grace that has seen others major sponsors pull-out.

But Tag Heuer’s vice-president of communications, Francoise Bezzola, later stressed no official decision had been made, adding that it was still “considering” whether to drop or continue its seven-year association with Woods.

Yesterday, global management consultancy firm Accenture cut its ties to the golfer after deeming he was “no longer the right representative”.

It followed the admission of an “infidelity” by Woods and an announcement of a hiatus from the game.

Breaking his former silence over a string of lurid allegations, Woods, who is married to Swedish former model Elin Nordegren, said he was taking an “indefinite break” from professional golf.

Instead he intended to focus on being “a better husband, father and person”, according to a statement posted on Friday on his website.

This admission of an “infidelity” saw movement over the weekend from the billionaire’s sponsors.

Along with Accenture, which will terminate its six-year association with Woods, shaving giant Gillette also sought to distance itself from the shamed golfer.

It announced an indefinite end to his marketing role “to support his desire for privacy”.

US phone firm AT&T said it was “evaluating” its relationship with Woods.

But Nike, his main sponsor, has offered its “full support”.

It was thought that Tag Heuer had followed suit today when spokeswoman Mariam Sylla told reporters that the firm continued to “respect his performance in the sport” adding that his personal life was “not our business”.

However Mr Bezzola told the Press Association that the report was “not the official position”.

He added: “We are not announcing that we will keep Tiger and we are not announcing we will drop Tiger Woods. We are still considering it and we haven’t taken a decision yet.”

Woods’s personal life has been in turmoil since crashing his car into a fire hydrant and tree in the early hours of November 27.

The mystery crash led to a string of tabloid claims of affairs. It was also speculated that a confrontation with his wife over the allegations led to the accident.

The drama has destroyed a squeaky-clean image that had made him an advertiser’s dream, with his fortune swelled by big money sponsorship and endorsements.

There is also concern in the golfing world that the fall from grace could hurt the image of the game.

American golfer Stewart Cink warned Woods’s absence could “hurt ratings”, adding: “No one can take the place of Tiger Woods out there.”

Meanwhile the voice of golf, commentator Peter Alliss, suggested Woods’s hiatus from the sport could lead to a more permanent retirement from the professional game.

He told the BBC: “If he doesn’t play for the first six months of next year then he might have decided he’s come to the end of the road.”

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