After Sony dumps World Cup over FIFA probe, other major sponsors voice concern

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05:  General view of atmosphere at the 2014 FIFA World Cup McDonald's launch party at Pillars 38 on June 5, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for McDonald's)

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: General view of atmosphere at the 2014 FIFA World Cup McDonald's launch party at Pillars 38 on June 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for McDonald's)  (2014 Getty Images)

The continuing scandal surrounding FIFA’s handling of an investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments is drawing the ire of more sponsors.

Following a Wall Street Journal report that Sony won’t renew its sponsorship with the world’s governing soccer body partly due to the controversy surrounding the probe, both the credit card company Visa and the fast food giant McDonald's have expressed concern about the corruption investigation and noted that the two companies were closely monitoring the situation.

“[G]reater transparency and more open, forthright communications is not only paramount, but the only way in which public trust in FIFA, and all that it represents, will be restored,” Visa said in a statement, according to the Wall Street Journal. “It is our expectation that FIFA will act accordingly and take swift action to resolve these issues in a manner that is meaningful and visible to all.”

Along with Visa and McDonald's, Coca-Cola – a major sponsor of both the World Cup and the Olympic games – has also voiced its dissatisfaction with FIFA in recent days.

“Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup is a concern to us,” the soft drink conglomerate said in a statement. “The current conflicting perspectives regarding the investigation are disappointing. Our expectation is that this will be resolved quickly in a transparent and efficient manner.”

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Another World Cup sponsor, Budweiser, has bucked the trend and stated that it is standing by the beleaguered sport’s body.

“We have taken note of the Ethics Committee’s communication as to the results of their investigation and will continue to monitor the situation going forward, through our ongoing communication with FIFA,” the brewer, which has sponsored eight consecutive World Cups, said in a statement Wednesday. “We will be the official beer sponsor of the FIFA World Cups 2018 and 2022.”

While FIFA has skirted answering direct questions about its sponsors, officials at the organization have admitted that its image on the world stage has been tarnished.

“The image of FIFA is something I agree … has reached a level which is definitely a level which we will not go lower than,’’ Jerome Valcke, the group’s general secretary, said at a meeting of the International Football Association Board.

It was announced last week that five officials, including three long-serving FIFA executive committee members, are being investigated as a result of the corruption probe into the bidding contests for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were won by Russia and Qatar respectively.

A person familiar with the case confirmed the names Thursday to the Associated Press after the five were identified in European media reports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the FIFA probe is confidential.

The current board members under investigation are FIFA vice president Angel María Villar of Spain, Michel D'Hooghe of Belgium and Worawi Makudi of Thailand.

Villar and Makudi risk losing their seats within months as even provisional suspensions from soccer duties can prevent people from standing for scheduled confederation elections.

The others under suspicion are German great Franz Beckenbauer and Harold Mayne-Nicholls of Chile.

Beckenbauer was a FIFA voter when the board selected both Russia and Qatar as hosts. He was provisionally suspended during the World Cup in June for refusing to help Garcia's probe.

Mayne-Nicholls is the former head of the football association in Chile. According to The National, in December 2010, he headed a inspection team that assessed the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. At the time, he warned that Qatar was a "high-risk option."

A few weeks after Mayne-Nicholls announced that he was thinking of challenging current FIFA President Sepp Blatter for the position in the next elections in January, it was leaked that Mayne-Nicholls is being investigated by the organization for allegedly trying to arrange for unpaid internships for various family members at Qatar's influential Aspire Sports Academy.

FIFA ethics committee chairmen Michael Garcia and Joachim Eckert said "a number of formal cases" had been opened against unidentified individuals.

FIFA also filed a criminal complaint to Swiss federal prosecutors against unnamed individuals cited in Garcia's investigation report, adding to a sense of disarray about the wider World Cup investigation.

The probe was revived after Eckert tried to close the cases against Russia and Qatar — a decision Garcia quickly appealed to FIFA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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