News 3 October 2015

Blatter rebuffs sponsor calls to immediately resign

Joseph S. Blatter has rebuffed calls from FIFA’s partners and sponsors to immediately resign his position as President of FIFA. FIFA partners Coca-Cola and Visa, plus World Cup sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and McDonalds, called for Blatter to immediately step aside on Friday 2 October. FIFA’s other three partners, Adidas, Gazprom and Hyundai/Kia, have yet to issue statements.

‘While Coca Cola is a valued sponsor of FIFA, Mr. Blatter respectfully disagrees with its 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’, read a statement issued by Blatter’s US lawyer, Richard Cullen, in response to Coca-Cola’s statement – the first to be issued. Cullen was appointed in early June, following the 27 May 161-page indictment issued by the Department of Justice (DoJ) against FIFA executives and associates.

‘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’, read a 2 October statement from the FIFA partner. ‘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 statement issued by McDonalds, a sponsor of the FIFA World Cup, followed a similar vein. ‘The events of recent weeks have continued to diminish the reputation of FIFA and public confidence in its leadership’ read the 2 October statement. ‘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’.

‘Following recent developments, AB InBev believes it would be appropriate for Mr. Blatter to step down as we believe his continued presence to be an obstacle in the reform process’, said World Cup sponsor AB InBev in a statement issued to Dow Jones Business News. ‘We strongly support the call for an independent reform process’.

“As we’ve previously said, we believe two things need to happen to ensure credible reform”, a Visa spokesperson told Dow Jones. “First, an independent, third-party commission led by one or more impartial leaders is critical to formulate reforms. Second, we believe no meaningful reform can be made under FIFA’s existing leadership. And given the events of last week, it’s clear it would be in the best interests of FIFA and the sport for Sepp Blatter to step down immediately.”

FIFA still lists the Handshake for Peace initiative as a World Cup sponsor on its internet site (see bottom of page). In June, the Nobel Peace Center announced that it wished to terminate its relationship with FIFA as soon as circumstances allow. ‘The board’s decision does not mean that the agreement with FIFA is being terminated with immediate effect, as some members of the media have been suggesting’, read a 16 June statement. ‘“We still have faith in the idea behind the Handshake for Peace, and would like the initiative to carry on in the future,” says Bente Erichsen, executive director of the Nobel Peace Center. The Handshake for Peace was developed jointly by the Nobel Peace Center and the Football Association of Norway in 2012. In January 2014 the Nobel Peace Center and FIFA agreed that the Handshake for Peace would be used at FIFA-organised competitions. The agreement expires at the close of 2016. Discussions to wind up this collaboration are now underway.’

Last week, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) opened criminal proceedings against Blatter, following allegations that he had authorised a 12 September 2005 contract with former FIFA Vice President and CONCACAF President Jack Warner. The contract appeared to show that Blatter sold the TV rights to the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups to Warner for US$600,000, alleged to be a fraction of their true value.

Blatter is set to step down on 26 February 2016, when FIFA will elect a new President. He has said that he will not stand for election as the new President, however he has yet to clarify what will happen should no viable candidates emerge for election. Although this is unlikely, Blatter’s main rival, UEFA President Michel Platini, has recently been investigated by the OAG over a CHF2 million contract for consultancy work carried out between 1998 and 2002, which was not paid until 2011. Platini has said that FIFA could not afford to pay him for the work at the time, however has not fully explained why he sought repayment of the money in 2011, when he chose not to stand against Blatter in a Presidential election, and shortly after the November 2010 decision to award the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively.

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