FIFA sponsor Coca-Cola has called on the world governing body to begin independent reform led by “eminent, impartial leaders” in an attempt to end the current crisis,reports Sky News.
The soft drinks giant, which has been a sponsor since 1978, wrote to FIFA last week urging it to form an independent commission, in what may be the most direct challenge to Sepp Blatter by a commercial partner. Coca-Cola confirmed its intervention in a letter to the International Trade Union Confederation, which has been lobbying FIFA to reform because of its concern over the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup.
In the letter Coca-Cola said “We believe that establishing this independent commission will be the most credible way for FIFA to approach its reform process and is necessary to build back the trust it has lost.” Their intervention increases the pressure on Mr Blatter as he prepares to propose reforms with the FIFA executive committee at a meeting on Monday that will also set the date for the election of his successor.
FIFA receives around £900m from sponsors and several of its global partners have expressed concern during the scandals of the last five years. Pressure on FIFA has intensified after the FBI charged 14 officials and sports marketing executives with racketeering in May, and the Swiss authorities opened a criminal investigation into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.
Former FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, one of those arrested in raids in Switzerland, is understood to have agreed to extradition and been escorted to the United States. Coca-Cola is the first sponsor to advocate a specific reform process, and it comes after the ITUC and other bodies began lobbying them under the New FIFA Now umbrella.
Sharan Burrow, secretary of the ITUC, said: “Coca Cola sets the benchmark against corruption by supporting the call for an independent reform commission to rebuild FIFA. “It’s now time for the other sponsors with Visa, Adidas and McDonalds to take a stand against corruption and put the game back on track.
“Football and other sports carry the passions of billions around the world, can effect real change and solidarity and corruption has no place in this. The workers enslaved in Qatar need to know a FIFA that will demand fundamental labour rights of this nation. “The ITUC backs the leadership of Coca Cola and call on the FIFA Executive to do the right thing on Monday.”
McDonalds, another long-term partner, also issued a statement critical of FIFA. “We are not satisfied with Fifa’s current handling of the recent incidents that go clearly against McDonald’s culture and values. FIFA must now implement meaningful changes to restore trust and credibility with fans and sponsors alike.”