Sunday 11 December 2016

Fifa sponsors Adidas and Kia hold back on calls for Sepp Blatter to resign

Published 03/10/2015 | 12:01

Sepp Blatter is under pressure to step down immediately
Sepp Blatter is under pressure to step down immediately

Fifa sponsors Adidas and Kia Motors are not following four of the organisation's other corporate backers in demanding Sepp Blatter resigns immediately.

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The president of world soccer's governing body has rebuffed demands from Budweiser, Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Visa to step down now - instead of holding on to power until February's emergency election.

Adidas would not discuss Blatter's status on Saturday, only saying: "The initiated reform process must continue quickly and transparently."

Adidas has provided the match ball for every World Cup since 1970.

Kia has sponsored Fifa with corporate affiliate Hyundai since 1999. The South Korean firm said that it doesn't "have any comment at the present time regarding Sepp Blatter or our current Fifa sponsorship status".

Kia did not respond when asked if that meant its Fifa deal, which runs through 2022, is no longer certain.

Coca-Cola became the first Fifa sponsor to call on Blatter to immediately stand down as president of world soccer's governing body. That was followed by a similar call from fast food giant McDonald's and financial services giant Visa.

The intervention from the major sponsors come a week after the 79-year-old Swiss was placed under criminal investigation by Swiss authorities for alleged financial wrongdoing at Fifa, which he has led since 1998.

A statement from Blatter's lawyer sad: "While Coca-Cola is a valued sponsor of Fifa, Mr Blatter respectfully disagrees with its position and 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."

He told Fifa staff earlier this week he's determined to remain in power until February's emergency presidential election, but pressure from sponsors who fund the organisation could force him out before then.

In a statement Coca-Cola said: "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."

"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."

Blatter's own position has been weakened as lawyers oversee key decisions at scandal-battered Fifa and he waits to hear whether he will be suspended by the ethics committee.

McDonald's, which has been a World Cup sponsor since 1994, said: "The events of recent weeks have continued to diminish the reputation of Fifa and public confidence in its leadership.

"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 has a Fifa deal through the 2022 World Cup, said: "We believe no meaningful reform can be made under Fifa's existing leadership, and given the events of last week, it's clear it would be in the best interest of Fifa and the sport for Sepp Blatter to step down immediately."

A fourth statement was delivered by brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, whose Budweiser branding has appeared on hoardings in World Cup stadiums since 1986 and the current deal runs until 2022.

"It would be appropriate for Mr Blatter to step down as we believe his continued presence to be an obstacle in the reform process," the beer maker said.

English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke called the strong intervention from sponsors "a game changer" that should prevent Blatter from standing in the February 26 election.

"It doesn't matter what Mr Blatter says now, if the people who pay for Fifa want a change they will get a change," Dyke said. "What is important is that it isn't just about Mr Blatter standing down, it's about making sure there is a comprehensive and effective reform programme.

"So for those of us who want fundamental change this is good news."

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