Two top sponsors of FIFA and its World Cup tournaments on Friday ratcheted up pressure on the global soccer body for major reforms as a corruption scandal casts a lengthening shadow over the sport.
Coca-Cola Co and McDonald’s Corp both made it clear that they are deeply unhappy with the way FIFA is governed and want major change.
Their intervention comes only days ahead of a crucial FIFA executive committee meeting on Monday at which both possible reforms and a timetable to elect a new president to replace Sepp Blatter, who has run FIFA for 17 years, will be discussed.
FIFA has been the subject of a series of allegations in the media – and in books – for many years. The scandal came to a head in May when U.S. prosecutors indicted nine soccer officials, most of whom had FIFA positions, and five marketing and broadcasting company executives with a range of bribery-related offences, including fraud, money-laundering and racketeering.
Coca-Cola urged Zurich-based FIFA to support the creation of an independent body to reform the way it is run. “We have written to FIFA and asked them to support an independent third-party commission for reforms,” a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola said on Friday.
And McDonald’s said it has told FIFA that there needs to be “meaningful changes to restore trust and credibility with fans and sponsors alike,” stressing that FIFA’s internal controls and compliance culture “are inconsistent with expectations McDonald’s has for its business partners throughout the world.”
The U.S. national labor union federation, AFL-CIO, wrote to the CEOs of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and fellow FIFA sponsor, Visa Inc, this week to ask them to support the calls for an independent commission.
McDonald’s, while not specifying particular support for an independent commission, said in a statement that “recent allegations and indictments have severely tarnished FIFA in a way that strikes at the very heart of our sponsorship.”
The fast-food giant added: “The world expects concrete actions and so does McDonald’s.”
Added a McDonald’s spokesman: “There is a wide range of deep reform that has to happen within FIFA. An independent commission is among the examples of how to address the urgent need for reform.”
Visa did not immediately provide a comment.
Responding to the comments from Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, a spokeswoman for FIFA said: “FIFA values the input of its commercial affiliates as the organization continues to cooperate with the ongoing investigations by U.S. and Swiss authorities.”
A number of anti-corruption groups, including Transparency International, also issued calls this week for FIFA’s reform process to be handled by an independent body.
“It is time for other sponsors to speak out, step up and back the ball for an independent reform commission,” said Transparency International spokesman Neil Martinson in commenting on the Coca-Cola statement.