Major FIFA sponsors issued coordinated statements calling for Joseph Blatter to resign immediately as FIFA’s president due to his involvement in a major bribery and corruption scandal.
Coca-Cola Co. first issued a statement on Friday calling for Blatter’s resignation, saying his departure from soccer’s governing body would allow for the beginning of a “credible and sustainable reform process.” Other long-time FIFA sponsors, McDonald’s Corp., Visa Inc. and Anheuser-Busch InBev quickly followed suit with similarly worded statements.
The push for change came after Swiss prosecutors announced last week they were opening a criminal investigation into 79-year-old Blatter, a Swiss national, over corruption and bribery allegations.
The scandal began in May, when the US Department of Justice indicted 14 current and former FIFA officials of corruption and money laundering schemes dating back 20 years.
Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998, denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign, saying he will only step down in February, when elections for a new president are set to take place. Blatter’s US attorney also said Blatter leaving office would not be in FIFA’s best interest.
There has been speculation over the possibility of FIFA forcing Blatter to resign due to the important role these sponsors play in securing revenue for FIFA. According to Bloomberg, FIFA sees revenues of more than $5 billion from the World Cup tournament, which occurs once every four years. Around 30 percent of these earnings are from marketing sales with major companies such as Coca Cola and McDonald’s – both of which have joined the push for change in FIFA’s dealings.
FIFA has been the subject of a three-year FBI investigation initially sparked by Russia and Qatar being chosen to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, respectively. The investigation was widened to include FIFA’s dealings in the past two decades, during which officials allegedly accepted bribes from several countries bidding to host the World Cup.