Four of the top corporate sponsors of FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, took coordinated aim at the organization’s president, Sepp Blatter, on Friday, calling for him to resign and labeling him an obstacle to reform.
Mr. Blatter immediately rejected the demands of the four companies — Visa, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Anheuser-Busch InBev — suggesting that FIFA saw the public statements as little more than an idle threat.
“Every day that passes, the image and reputation of FIFA continues to tarnish,” Coca-Cola said in a news release, a sentiment that was quickly amplified in similar statements by the other sponsors. “FIFA needs comprehensive and urgent reform, and that can only be accomplished through a truly independent approach.”
Anheuser-Busch InBev called Mr. Blatter an “obstacle” to reform, and McDonald’s cited diminishing public confidence in his leadership. Visa said, “We believe no meaningful reform can be made under FIFA’s existing leadership.”
Mr. Blatter said through his lawyer that he had no intention of quitting.
“Mr. Blatter respectfully disagrees with its position,” Richard Cullen, Mr. Blatter’s lawyer, said in response to Coca-Cola’s statement, “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.”
The four sponsors that called for Blatter’s resignation are some of FIFA’s most prominent and longest-serving benefactors. Coca-Cola and Visa are two of FIFA’s five official partners, its highest level of sponsorship, and each has paid tens of millions of dollars to be associated with soccer’s biggest events. Like Coca-Cola, a World Cup sponsor since 1982, McDonald’s and Anheuser-Busch InBev have relationships with FIFA that go back decades.
Mr. Blatter has been FIFA’s president since 1998, but after several top soccer and marketing officials closely linked to FIFA were arrested in May — and only days after he won a fifth term as president — he announced that he would give up his office. He called for a special election to choose his successor; that vote will be held in February.