Coca-Cola Co., McDonald's and Anheuser-Busch InBev are calling on FIFA President Sepp Blatter to step down immediately amid fresh criminal proceedings against the embattled soccer leader. The statements by the key FIFA sponsors raise the pressure on Mr. Blatter to exit now, rather than keep to his own timeline of leaving sometime next year.
"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," Coke said in its statement. "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."
A-B InBev stated that "it would be appropriate for Mr. Blatter to step down as we believe his continued presence to be an obstacle in the reform process." The brewer added that "A-B InBev has been actively engaged on the FIFA reform process both as part of a sponsor group including Adidas, Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Visa, and on an individual basis through continued conversations with the organization."
McDonald's stated: "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."
That is a shift in tone from the fast feeder's July 17 statement, in which it said it had "expressed our concerns directly to FIFA."
A correspondent for the BBC tweeted the following, which he said was a response from Mr. Blatter's lawyer.
Breaking: Full statement from Sepp Blatter's lawyer on calls from Coca Cola and McDonalds to step down immediately. pic.twitter.com/As3y91c0Lj— Richard Conway (@richard_conway) October 2, 2015
The calls for immediate resignation come after Swiss authorities recently started criminal proceedings against Mr. Blatter. U.S. officials earlier this year accused FIFA officials of a vast corruption scheme in which bribes and kickbacks influenced major decisions such as holding the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
As the Guardian reported last week, "After arriving to question Mr. Blatter at FIFA's opulent Zurich HQ and seizing his computer, the office of the Swiss attorney general said it had opened proceedings against him 'on suspicion of criminal mismanagement' and 'suspicion of misappropriation.' "
Mr. Blatter was due to step down in February. But Reuters reported earlier this week that he "has not ruled out trying to stay on as FIFA's president beyond February's scheduled election, despite facing a criminal investigation and a possible internal ethics probe."