(WFI) Sepp Blatter has rejected calls to step down immediately from four top FIFA sponsors after he became embroiled in corruption allegations.
Budweiser, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa demanded he resign as FIFA president late Friday in what appeared to be a joint effort to force Blatter out amid the most damaging scandal in the federation’s 111-year history.
Through his New York attorney, Blatter underlined his determination to remain president until an elective congress on Feb. 26, saying the 79-year-old “respectfully disagrees” with Coca-Cola’s position – the first of FIFA’s major financial supporters to ask for him to quit.
Cullen said Blatter “believes firmly that his leaving office now would not be in the best interest of FIFA nor would it advance the process of reform and therefore, he will not resign”.
Coca-Cola, the longest-standing FIFA corporate backer dating back to 1974, issued the first statement of the four FIFA partners. Other World Cup sponsors Hyundai and Gazprom have yet to announce if they will join the chorus of calls for Blatter to resign. Adidas did not call for Blatter’s head on Saturday, instead saying “the ongoing reform process must be transparent and be continued swiftly”, according to DPA.
“For the benefit of the game, The Coca-Cola Company is calling for FIFA President Joseph Blatter to step down immediately so that a credible and sustainable reform process can begin in earnest,” said the drinks giant, which has benefited from stadium advertising at every FIFA World Cup since 1950.
“Every day that passes, the image and reputation of FIFA continues to tarnish. FIFA needs comprehensive and urgent reform, and that can only be accomplished through a truly independent approach.”
McDonald’s, a World Cup sponsor since the 1994 showpiece in the USA, delivered its own critique of Blatter’s plans to stay on.
“The events of recent weeks have continued to diminish the reputation of FIFA and public confidence in its leadership,” the fast food giant said. “We believe it would be in the best interest of the game for FIFA president Sepp Blatter to step down immediately so that the reform process can proceed with the credibility that is needed.”
Visa, which became a top-tier FIFA partner in 2007 and recently extended its relationship until 2022, said “no meaningful reform can be made under FIFA’s existing leadership”.
Given the events of last week, when Blatter was placed under criminal investigation by Swiss investigators for alleged financial mismanagement related to a TV rights contract and “disloyal payment “ to UEFA chief Michel Platini, the credit card company said that “it’s clear it would be in the best interest of FIFA and the sport for Sepp Blatter to step down immediately”.
Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, a FIFA backer since 1986 which now has a deal running through Qatar 2022, also piled pressure on the embattled president to quit.
“It would be appropriate for Mr. Blatter to step down as we believe his continued presence to be an obstacle in the reform process,” it said in a statement.
Blatter denies wrongdoing amid accusations of financial mismanagement but faces a possible suspension by FIFA’s ethics committee. And he has somehow managed to weather the storm over the $150 million bribery scandal, dating back nearly three decades, that was uncovered on the eve of the May FIFA Congress at which he was re-elected for a fifth term. He dramatically announced resignation plans four days later in the wake of the arrests of seven FIFA officials in Zurich. In total, 14 football officials and marketing executives have been indicted in the U.S. on a series of corruption charges.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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