FIFA silent as Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Visa and AB InBev urge Sepp Blatter to go now

FIFA has yet to release an official statement on calls by four sponsors for the organisation's president Sepp Blatter to step down immediately, although Blatter's lawyer has stated "he will not resign".

Coca-Cola: 'Every day that passes, the image and reputation of FIFA continues to tarnish' (Credit: Mike Mozart via Flickr)
Coca-Cola: 'Every day that passes, the image and reputation of FIFA continues to tarnish' (Credit: Mike Mozart via Flickr)

Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa and Budweiser owner AB InBev all issued statements over the weekend urging Blatter to leave now after news emerged that he faces criminal proceedings in Switzerland, partly related to an alleged "disloyal payment" made to UEFA present Michel Platini in 2011.

PRWeek contacted FIFA’s press office, which recommended emailing Blatter’s US law firm McGuire Woods for a statement. The law firm did not respond to PRWeek at the time of publication.

However, a number of news organisations have carried a statement from Blatter’s lawyer Richard Cullen in response to Coca-Cola’s call for him to stand down; the soft drinks giant was the first of the four sponsors to urge the FIFA president to go now.

Cullen’s statement said Blatter "respectfully disagrees" with Coca-Cola’s position and that leaving now would "not be in the best interest of FIFA nor would it advance the process of reform and, therefore, he will not resign".

BBC Radio 5 Live sports news correspondent Richard Conway tweeted the following:

In a statement issued on Friday, Coca-Cola called for Blatter’s immediate resignation, saying: "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."

Following Coca-Cola’s interjection, McDonald’s released a statement that 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."

AB InBev’s statement said: "Following recent developments, AB InBev believes it would be appropriate for Mr Blatter to step down as we believe his continued presence to be an obstacle in the reform process.

"We strongly support the call for an independent reform process."

Visa stated: "As we've previously said, we believe two things need to happen to ensure credible reform. First, 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.

"And given the events of last week, it's clear it would be in the best interests of FIFA and the sport for Sepp Blatter to step down immediately."

Adidas, another FIFA sponsor, urged action but fell short of calling for Blatter to step down at once. "FIFA must implement fundamental changes for the sake of football. Therefore, the initiated reform process must continue quickly and transparently," the company said in a statement.

PRWeek left messages with FIFA’s two other sponsors, Hyundai and Gazprom, but received no reply at the time of publication.

Under FIFA’s recently reorganised sponsorship structure, Coca-Cola, Visa, Adidas, Hyundai and Gazprom are top-level FIFA partners, with Budweiser and McDonald’s known as 'World Cup partners'.

The criminal proceedings against Blatter are the latest in a line of crises at FIFA in recent months. It follows a series of arrests and allegations of corruption among high-profile individuals at the organisation in the summer, along with confusion about whether Blatter would be stepping down.

In July, Walter De Gregorio, comms and public affairs director at FIFA, stepped down days after making a joke on Swiss TV at the expense of Blatter.

It later emerged that FIFA hired US-based Teneo Holdings for "operational and reputational" work.

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