Following last week's announcement that FIFA President Sepp Blatter is facing criminal proceedings in Switzerland for alleged corruption, Coca-Cola and McDonald's, two major FIFA World Cup Sponsors, called for his immediate resignation.
The company released a statement, 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."
Joining Coca-Cola in calling for Blatter's resignation is another high-profile FIFA sponsor: McDonald's. The company released a statement:
"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."
Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch and Visa also added their calls for Blatter to step down, Reuters reports.
Blatter responded to the pressure almost immediately, but he reiterated that he would not give up his post. Blatter said through his U.S. lawyer, Richard Cullen, that he would not resign and that his leaving office would not be in FIFA's best interest or advance the reform process, Reuters reports.
When Blatter announced in June that he was going to resign, Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Visa praised the news and called for reform. Coca-Cola called it "a positive step for the good of sport, football and its fans." Blatter, however, then said that his resignation would not take immediate affect and that he would step down in 2016.
Today's calls for his resignation are the strongest indications yet that big name sponsors that have long been associated with FIFA are serious about reform.
While neither Coca-Cola nor McDonald's has gone so far as to threaten to stop sponsoring the World Cup, it would be a significant blow if FIFA were to lose the support of high-profile, long-time sponsors.
On it's website, FIFA says that Coca-Cola is "one of the longest-standing corporate partners of FIFA, with a formal association since 1974 and an official sponsorship of FIFA World Cup that began in 1978."
It adds that "Coca-Cola has had stadium advertising at every FIFA World Cup since 1950."
The latest allegations of wrongdoing surrounding Blatter have to do with questionable payments to two FIFA officials. As we previously reported:
"Blatter is primarily being investigated for a financial transaction involving UEFA (Europe's soccer governing body) President Michele Platini and another linked to indicted former FIFA official Jack Warner, according to the statement.
"Blatter is accused of making a 'disloyal payment' of 2 million Swiss francs to Platini in 2011 for work Platini performed between 1999 and 2002. The New York Times notes that the payment was made" three months before Mr. Blatter won a fourth term as FIFA president" in June 2011.
"The statement from Swiss authorities also alleges that Blatter signed a contract with the Caribbean Football Union, of which Jack Warner was president at the time, that 'violated his fiduciary duties and acted against the interest of FIFA.'"
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