Laurent Gillieron / Keystone / AP

Major sponsors call on FIFA chief Blatter to resign

Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Visa and Budweiser all called on Sepp Blatter to resign a week after Swiss criminal probe opened

Major soccer sponsors on Friday issued the strongest calls yet for the immediate resignation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, a week after Swiss authorities said they were opening a criminal investigation into the head of the world soccer body.

In quick succession on Friday, companies that have long linked their brand names to the global sport — Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Visa and Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch InBev — demanded that Blatter step down, in a strong push for change at the organization.

Blatter's U.S. lawyer, Richard Cullen, said in response that Blatter would not resign, because he believed leaving office would not be in FIFA's best interest 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."

Shortly thereafter, McDonald's followed suit with its own statement, adding to the call 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 company said in a statement. "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 also joined the call for an immediate resignation; Sky News reported Visa had also done so.

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 U.S. attorney said he was cooperating with the Swiss probe.

FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup competitions to Russia and Qatar is one of the strands under scrutiny by U.S. and Swiss authorities investigating corruption in the organization — a worry for tournament sponsors including McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Visa.

The scandal exploded in May, when 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives were indicted on U.S. charges of racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud in relation to bribery schemes that dated back decades.


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