Sepp Blatter survived a round of calls to resign as president of FIFA after some of his closest compatriots were slapped with corruption charges by the United States government earlier this year, Forbes reports.
Last week, authorities in Switzerland placed Blatter under criminal investigation. Will he survive this time? Not if Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa, and Budweiser have a say in it.
Blatter was re-elected to another term as president by 133 member nations of FIFA in a vote held only days after the corruption indictment. There was plenty of outrage from many corners. Blatter, who wasn’t named in the indictment, initially rebuffed calls to resign. Later, amidst mounting pressure, he announced that he would step down as president in February 2016.
For many people with ties to FIFA, both direct and indirect, Blatter’s timetable wasn’t fast enough. They felt the magnitude of the charges and the controversy around them demanded that Blatter go. FIFA sponsors took a cautious, if weary, wait-and-see approach.
But that tack appears to have now run its course. Recently, Swiss authorities announced they are investigating the bidding process for the World Cups to be held in Russia in 2016 and Qatar in 2018. Now, Swiss prosecutors are accusing Blatter of signing a contract “unfavourable to FIFA” and making a “disloyal payment” with two international football officials—both of whom, by the way, happen to be the subject of FIFA independent ethics investigations.
Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa, and Budweiser are demanding that Blatter resign immediately. With the millions of sponsorship dollars and billions of customers they have in hand, could this spell an even quicker end to Blatter’s presidency?
Blatter has held the highest office in international football’s governing body since 1998 and been a top decision-maker since 1975. Broadcast, sponsorship, and hosting rights negotiated during his tenure have made FIFA one of the most recognisable and profitable organisations in the world. With financial reserves of $1.5 billion, it is understandable why Blatter would have considerable support among those in FIFA’s inner sanctum.
But with major sponsors putting pressure on Blatter to resign, it stands to reason that many influential FIFA members are ready for him to go—and now. Their concern is almost assuredly that his presence is hurting the image of FIFA and the long-term reputation of its properties, including, primarily, the World Cup. Rather than work through the internal politics and power struggles, they can let external pressure do the job.
That is not to say the sponsors are shills for FIFA officials, many of whom are high-ranking and influential individuals in their home countries. If corporations don’t speak up, consumers and employees would wonder why. That is, why protect this man and the way he manages things?