Sponsors put squeeze on over FIFA's failure to act
The financial cost of FIFA's corruption scandal began to hit home yesterday when Sepp Blatter's embattled organisation admitted it was struggling to attract new sponsors and was heavily criticised by the chief executive of Visa, a key commercial partner.
On the eve of the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw in St Petersburg, which will be attended by Blatter and Russia president Vladimir Putin, FIFA's response to the latest crisis was described as "wholly inadequate" by Visa chief executive Charlie Scharf.
He said that no "meaningful" change could be enacted until Blatter left on February 26, when a new president will be elected by the 209 member nations.
Scharf said: "FIFA's subsequent responses (to the FBI and Swiss investigations) are wholly inadequate and continue to show its lack of awareness of the seriousness of the changes which are needed.
"An independent, third-party commission led by one or more impartial leaders, is critical to formulate reforms.
"Second, we believe no meaningful reform can be made under FIFA's existing leadership."
Blatter's key aide, general secretary Jérôme Valcke, announced that he would also be quitting when the current president stepped down in February.
Valcke conceded that the current investigations into FIFA, which led to seven officials being arrested in Zurich in raids in May, with a total of 18 having been indicted by the FBI, are affecting the organisation's capacity to attract World Cup sponsors.
FIFA have not found a replacement for Emirates airline, one of the six major sponsors, which ended its association at the end of last year. No company has committed to any of the 20 regional sponsorship opportunities for the 2018 World Cup finals.
Meanwhile, hosts Russia were mired in more accusations of being soft on racism in their domestic game in the build-up to today's draw.
Brazil international Hulk, who plays for Zenit St Petersburg, was withdrawn from playing a part in the draw after complaining of racism "at almost every match".
The Russian authorities claimed it was simply a case of playing commitments, although Zenit's schedule is unchanged.
On Monday, Hulk said: "It (racism) happens at almost every match in Russia but the world does not hear about it because they try to keep it quiet. I see it happening all the time. I used to get really angry about it but now I just send a kiss to the fans and try not to get angry." (© Independent News Service)