Anheuser-Busch InBev, whose Budweiser branding has appeared on hoardings in World Cup stadiums since 1986 and the current deal runs until 2022, is the latest FIFA sponsor to call on Sepp Blatter to immediately stand down as president of world soccer's governing body.
Anheuser-Busch InBev's response followed the calling from major sponsors Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Visa who called for Blatter to resign from his FIFA post. "It would be appropriate for Mr. Blatter to step down as we believe his continued presence to be an obstacle in the reform process," the beer maker said in a released statement.
The intervention from the major sponsors come a week after the 79-year-old Swiss was placed under criminal investigation by Swiss authorities for alleged financial wrongdoing at FIFA, which he has led since 1998. He told FIFA staff earlier this week he's determined to remain in power until February's emergency presidential election, but pressure from sponsors who fund the organization could force him out before then.
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"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," Coca-Cola said in a statement. "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."
Blatter's own position has been weakened as lawyers oversee key decisions at scandal-battered FIFA and he waits to hear whether he will be suspended by the ethics committee. Blatter did address a leadership issue earlier today in FIFA's in-house magazine -- but not his own. Blatter complained that quotas must be implemented to stop men dominating positions of power in football.
"Football continues to be dominated by men," Blatter wrote in FIFA Weekly. "It is our duty to change this. Women must feel that they have an equal chance of succeeding in football as their male counterparts. FIFA, the confederations and our member associations have to break the cycle that makes it so much easier for men to ascend to positions of responsibility. This is not just a moral duty."
Blatter said there is "compelling evidence that gender-balanced organizations make better decisions and produce better results." There are currently no female contenders in the race to succeed Blatter in the Feb. 26 election.
English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke called the strong intervention from sponsors "a game changer" that should prevent Blatter from standing in the Feb. 26 election.
"It doesn't matter what Mr. Blatter says now, if the people who pay for FIFA want a change they will get a change," Dyke said. "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 program. So for those of us who want fundamental change this is good news."
A statement from Blatter's lawyer sad: "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."