Visa – one of Fifa’s key sponsors – has threatened it could pull out of its contract with football’s world governing body as Sepp Blatter faced increasing pressure not to seek re-election as its president.
Nine senior officials at the organisation, as well as five sports media and promotions executives, were charged by US prosecutors on Wednesday over bribes totalling more than $150m (£100m) over 24 years. It followed the arrest of senior officials at a Zurich hotel and the announcement of a separate Swiss investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The accusations of “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption have sent shockwaves through the football world, with many questioning whether Fifa can continue in its current form.
Blatter has not been named as a suspect, but he faces questioning in the Swiss investigation. In a sign of the pressure he is facing, Blatter dodged an appearance at a Fifa medical conference in Zurich on Thursday morning. The European football governing body, Uefa, will meet on Thursday afternoon in the city and may threaten to boycott Fifa.
Fifa sponsors, including Adidas, Visa and Coca-Cola, are calling for the body to reform its practices. Visa issued a statement on Wednesday expressing its “disappointment and concern with Fifa”. It said that unless football’s world governing body rebuilds a corporate culture with “strong ethical practices” at its heart, “we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship”.
The credit card company’s contract with Fifa is worth at least $25 million a year.
Coca-Cola said: “This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the Fifa World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations.”
South Korean firm Hyundai Motor Company, the sole Asian Fifa partner for the 2018 World Cup to be held in Russia, said it was extremely concerned. Anheuser-Busch InBev, whose Budweiser brand is a sponsor of the 2018 World Cup, said: “We expect all of our partners to maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency.” McDonald’s, meanwhile, said it was monitoring the situation.
The crisis has also cast doubt over Blatter’s leadership of the body. He is seeking a fifth four-year term as president this week, but leading figures in world football have called for him to reconsider his position.