The money men are finally weighing in on the ongoing corruption drama at Soccer’s world governing body. Just over a week after Swiss authorities announced the opening of a criminal investigation against embattled FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, four of soccer’s biggest sponsors have called for his immediate resignation, rather than his planned stepping-down next year.
Coca-Cola, Visa, Budweiser and McDonald’s all issued their denunciations within hours of one another, with Coke going first, saying in a statement that “”Every day that passes Fifa’s image and reputation continues to tarnish.” Later AB InBev, parent company of Budweiser, said it considers Blatter to be an “obstacle” to the reform of the embattled organization, while Visa said Blatter’s resignation would be in “the best interests of Fifa and the sport,” a sentiment echoed by McDonald’s.
Blatter’s term as President of world soccer has seen the organization’s public image tarnished by increasingly common accusations of corruption. This climate went nuclear in May when, just before the organization held elections for a new President, six top officials were arrested by Swiss authorities acting in cooperation with the US Department of Justice. The arrests came after three years of investigation by the FBI concerning allegations of wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, and suspicion of accepting bribes and kickbacks.
Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998, was reelected despite the scandal, but following intense pressure from sponsors and the public at large, announced he would resign. However, Blatter soon effectively reneged on that pledge, deciding instead that he would remain on as President until February, 2016, when a special election will be held to replace him. That hasn’t been good enough for critics of FIFA, who note that several recent controversial actions, including the selection of Qatar as a World Cup Host, have not been address. The selection of Qatar was particularly divisive, and has been widely perceived as the result of a successful bribery campaign. Critics note the poor climate, and among other concerns, there have also been numerous allegations of worker abuse and outright slavery connected to construction for the games.
Blatter remains defiant in the face of calls for his resignation, saying through a spokesperson that to resign now “would not be in the best interest of Fifa, nor would it advance the process of reform.”