Coca-Cola Co and McDonald’s have called on FIFA President Sepp Blatter to step down, a week after Swiss authorities said they were opening a criminal investigation into the head of football’s world governing body.
In quick succession, the major sponsors of FIFA released statements demanding Blatter step down, in the strongest sign yet companies that have long linked their brand names to the global sport will push for change in the organization.
But Blatter’s US lawyer, Richard Cullen, said in response that Blatter would not resign, because it would not be in FIFA’s best interest for him to resign or advance needed reforms of the organization.
“Every day that passes, the image and reputation of FIFA continues to tarnish,”Coca Cola said.
“FIFA needs comprehensive and urgent reform, and that can only be accomplished through a truly independent approach.”
Following suit, McDonald’sreleased its own statement calling for Blatter to step aside.
“The events of recent weeks have continued to diminish the reputation of FIFA and public confidence in its leadership,” the fast food giant company said in a written statement.
“FIFA president Sepp Blatter to step down immediately so that the reform process can proceed with the credibility that is needed.”
Blatter has previously said he would stay on until an election set for February.
Last Friday, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General said it opened a criminal investigation into Blatter on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of funds.
It was the first time that authorities investigating corruption in the world’s most popular sport had pointed the finger directly at Blatter, the 79-year-old Swiss who has run its powerful governing body for the past 17 years.
He has denied wrongdoing and his US attorney said he was cooperating with the Swiss probe.
Fifa’s awarding of the 2018 and 2022 competitions to Russia and Qatar is one of the strands under scrutiny from US and Swiss authorities investigating corruption in the organization – a worry for tournament sponsors such as McDonald’s Corp, Coca-Cola and Visa.
The scandal exploded in May, when 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives were indicted on US charges of racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud in relations to bribery schemes that dated back.