Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have called for FIFA president Joseph “Sepp” Blatter to step down immediately, becoming the first major sponsors to withdraw their support from the beleaguered head of world soccer.
“For the benefit of the game, the Coca-Cola Company is calling for FIFA president Joseph Blatter to step down immediately so that a credible and sustainable reform process can begin in earnest,” Coca-Cola said in a statement.
Both Coke and McDonald’s are major FIFA sponsors and have paid hundreds of millions of dollars backing FIFA events like the World Cup. On Friday, both demanded FIFA’s long-reigning president resign immediately.
“Every day that passes, FIFA’s image and reputation continues to tarnish,” Coca-Cola said.
The 79-year-old Swiss functionary has run soccer’s world governing body since 1988. Last month, the Swiss authorities began a criminal investigation into Blatter on suspicion of “criminal mismanagement and misappropriation” of funds in connection with his work at FIFA.
The justice departments of both the U.S. and Switzerland are investigating alleged corruption at FIFA. In the U.S., authorities have accused FIFA officials and connected marketing executives of soliciting and receiving more than $150 million in various bribes and kickbacks over the past 20 years.
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Blatter is due anyway to step down in February, when a new FIFA president will be elected. But Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are calling on Blatter to leave immediately “in the best interest of the game” as McDonald’s puts it.
Coke and McDonald’s are the first major sponsors to put financial pressure on FIFA to reform but they are unlikely to be the last.
Blatter, however, remains defiant. In a statement released through his lawyers on Friday, he said resigning now “would not be in the best interest of FIFA, nor would it advance the process of reform.”