Sepp Blatter was staring at the prospect of an immediate end to his time as FIFA president after several of the organisation’s biggest sponsors called on him to stand down immediately.
In what appeared an orchestrated action, Coca-Cola, Visa, Budweiser and McDonald’s all issued statements saying Blatter should resign immediately after a week which has seen criminal proceedings opened against him in Switzerland.
Blatter’s immediate response was to insist that he is staying in office until February but the action of such high-profile sponsors will crank up the pressure on the 79-year-old to an intense degree.
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said this should now be the end of the road for Blatter.
Dyke told Press Association Sport: “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.
“What is important is that it isn’t just about Mr Blatter standing down – it’s about making sure there is a comprehensive and effective reform programme. So for those of us who want fundamental change this is good news.”
The turning pt? FIFA sponsors Coca-Cola and McDonalds issue statements calling for president Sepp Blatter to step down immediately.— Tony Leen (@tonyleen) October 2, 2015
Coca-Cola, one of FIFA’s oldest sponsors, took the first step, 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: “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.”
Visa soon followed with its own statement, saying; “Given the events of the last week, it is clear it would be in the best interests of FIFA and the sport for Sepp Blatter to step down immediately.”
Sepp Blatter's lawyer says he won't resign after Visa, Coca-Cola and McDonald's call for him to step down. pic.twitter.com/rSJZQrbiau— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 2, 2015
Blatter is suspected of criminal mismanagement or misappropriation over a TV rights deal he signed with former Caribbean football chief Warner in 2005.
He is also suspected of “a disloyal payment” in 2011 of two million Swiss francs (£1.35million on current exchange rates) to current UEFA president and FIFA presidential candidate Michel Platini for work apparently carried out by the Frenchman more than nine years before, between 1999 and 2002. The pair are understood to be under investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee.
Blatter has denied wrongdoing and on Friday night insisted he would not walk away.
His United States-based lawyer Richard Cullen said in a statement: “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.”
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