FIFA chief shrugs off Coca-Cola's resignation demand
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has refused to resign despite being implored to do so immediately by football's richest and longest-standing sponsors.
In what appeared to be an orchestrated move, Coca-Cola, a sponsor of the World Cup since 1978, and McDonald's, which first sponsored the tournament in 1994, both demanded he go for the good of the game. Budweiser is reportedly supporting the calls and Visa, which became one of the leading sponsors in 2007, repeated the demand it made in the summer for Mr Blatter to resign.
FA Chairman Greg Dyke said: ''I think this is a game changer. It doesn't matter what Mr Blatter says now - if the people who pay for FIFA want a change they will get a change. So for those of us who want fundamental change this is good news.''
However, Mr Blatter remained defiant yesterday and issued a statement through his lawyer in which he said it would be better for football if he held on to his position.
His lawyer, Richard Cullen, said: ''Mr Blatter respectfully disagrees with (the sponsors') position and believes firmly that his leaving office now would not be in the best interest of FIFA, nor would it advance the process of reform, and therefore he will not resign.''
Pressure has been on Blatter to resign since FIFA, football's world governing body, became mired in a corruption investigation in May when seven officials were arrested in Switzerland.
A week ago prosecutors in Switzerland formally opened a criminal investigation into Blatter over an alleged ''disloyal payment'' to UEFA chief Michel Platini of two million Swiss francs.
Blatter is also suspected of corrupt involvement in a television rights deal signed in 2005 with Jack Warner, the shamed Caribbean former FIFA vice-president.
Mr Blatter has looked isolated since US Justice Department investigators started looking into FIFA's affairs.
Seven senior Fifa officials were arrested in dawn raids in May - and later charged - as US officials investigated suspected corruption dating back a generation.
Mr Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA just days after the dawn raids. Under intense pressure he announced in June that he would stand down but only in February next year.
Coca-Cola issued a statement, saying: ''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. 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.''
McDonald's added: ''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.''
In the summer Visa said that under his leadership ''no meaningful reform'' was possible and on Friday night it repeated its call for him to go.
- THE INDEPENDENT