Defiant Blatter rejects FIFA sponsors’ calls to quit
Fifa president Sepp Blatter will not resign ahead of February's emergency presidential election - defying demands from major sponsors Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Visa that he must go immediately.
A defiant 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."
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 national was placed under criminal investigation by Swiss authorities for alleged financial wrongdoing at Fifa, which he has led since 1998.
He told Fifa staff earlier this week that he is 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.
"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," Coca-Cola said in a statement.
"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.
Blatter did address a leadership issue earlier today in Fifa's in-house magazine - but not his own.
Blatter complained that quotas must be implemented to stop men dominating positions of power in football.
"Football continues to be dominated by men," Blatter wrote in 'Fifa Weekly'. "It is our duty to change this. Women must feel that they have an equal chance of succeeding in football as their male counterparts.
"Fifa, the confederations and our member associations have to break the cycle that makes it so much easier for men to ascend to positions of responsibility. This is not just a moral duty."
Blatter said there is "compelling evidence that gender-balanced organisations make better decisions and produce better results". There are currently no female contenders in the race to succeed Blatter in the February 26 election.
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 to 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 whose 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 beermaker 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."