Coke, Visa, Adidas Tell FIFA They Want Independent Oversight

Big Sponsors Call for Reforms at Troubled Soccer Organization

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Top FIFA sponsors published an open letter Tuesday urging global soccer's governing body to enact credible reforms, days before a key meeting to finalize proposed changes to the organization.

The companies -- Coca Cola Co., Adidas, Visa Inc., Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and McDonald's Corp. -- have directed their letter at FIFA's decision-making executive committee, which will this week decide what reforms to take to the group's 209 member associations at an emergency congress in February.

The sponsors, who typically pay about $100 million per four-year World Cup cycle, have made independent oversight of FIFA's reform process one of their primary demands, although so far, the organization has resisted.

"It has also become clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process," said the letter published on Coke's website. "We encourage you to become champions of this independent oversight as it will only enhance FIFA's credibility."

The sponsors also called for greater transparency, accountability, respect for human rights, integrity, leadership and gender equality at FIFA, which is trying to recover from a global scandal that has seen senior executives arrested in the U.S. and effectively ended the rein of longtime president Sepp Blatter, who is facing a criminal investigation.

"The actions you take with this first round of reform proposals will set the tone for the full Congress to get behind the reform process," the letter said. A Coca-Cola spokesperson declined to comment on whether the company would withdraw its support should the reforms not meet its demands. Coke has been a FIFA partner since 1975.

The organization's finances have ballooned as soccer has become the world's number one sport. The quadrennial World Cup brings in more than $5 billion, about 30 percent of which comes from marketing sales, including deals with Coke, McDonald's and Adidas. Contributions from TV companies that broadcast the 32- team event account for 43 percent of FIFA's revenue and provide the platform for sponsors to blitz viewers around the globe.

Some of the sponsors' demands directly relate to ongoing issues at FIFA like the conditions of migrant workers at 2022 World Cup host Qatar, which has yet to make good on labor reforms promised after immigrant construction workers died building stadiums in the emirate. Moya Dodd, a member of theFIFA executive committee, also recently called for a greater role for women in senior positions.

-Bloomberg News

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