Fifa corruption arrests spark concern among sponsors


                                                               FAKE FIFA

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Key sponsors of Fifa have expressed “serious concern” after the US accused senior officials of football’s governing body of racketeering, fraud and money laundering.

Coca-Cola said the World Cup had been “tarnished” by “lengthy controversy”.

Seven top officials were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday, among a group of 14 people indicted.

The European body, Uefa, is to meet later to decide whether to boycott Friday’s vote for the presidency.

Fifa on Wednesday announced a provisional ban from football-related activity on 11 of the people involved in the US prosecution.

But it said Friday’s vote – in which Fifa president Sepp Blatter is seeking a fifth term – would go ahead.

Mr Blatter, who has not been named in the investigations, issued a statement on the US case, saying: “Such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.”

Swiss prosecutors have also opened a separate investigation into the bidding process for the World Cup tournaments in 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar.

‘Highest standards’

Fifa’s key sponsors, including Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa, Sony, Gazprom and Hyundai/KIA have faced increasing calls to put pressure on Fifa as corruption allegations have mounted.

Reacting to Wednesday’s events, Coca-Cola said: “This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the Fifa World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations.”

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Adidas said it was “fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners”.

Credit card giant Visa said: “Our disappointment and concern with Fifa in light of today’s developments is profound… we expect Fifa to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues.”

McDonald’s, a second-tier sponsor, said the latest developments were “extremely concerning” and that it was in contact with Fifa and was closely monitoring the situation.

Cobus de Swardt, managing director of campaigning group Transparency International, told Associated Press: “If you are putting many, many millions of euros into a business, then you definitely have a right and responsibility to demand that you are not tainted.”

Fifa’s main sponsors are afforded exposure in stadiums and have the right to use Fifa trademarks in advertising.

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Mr Blatter also received a stinging rebuke from Uefa.

The European football governing body said the events were “a disaster for Fifa and tarnish the image of football as a whole”.

It said corruption was deeply rooted in Fifa’s culture.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter adjusts his glasses as he addresses a news conference after a meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Zurich March 21, 2014. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann  (SWITZERLAND - Tags: SPORT SOCCER HEADSHOT)  Picture Supplied by Action Images

Analysis: BBC North America editor Jon Sopel

The USA may be a footballing minnow but today it has shown the importance of fair play with the breathtaking news conference given by the attorney general, the head of the FBI and the head of the IRS.

The scale of what they allege is eye popping – the kickbacks, the fraud, the money laundering, the extortion, the corruption, the bribes.

Al Capone is made to look like a kindergarten novice compared to this lot, if the allegations turn out to be true. The IRS boss said “this is the World Cup of fraud and today we are giving Fifa a red card”.

Drama football fans could do without

Uefa’s statement said Friday’s congress risked becoming a “farce” and that the vote should be postponed.

“Therefore the European associations will have to consider carefully if they should even attend this congress and caution a system, which, if it is not stopped, will ultimately kill football.” Uefa will meet on Thursday.

‘Year after year’

Those indicted in the US case are accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m (£97m) over a 24-year period beginning in 1991.

Spelling out details of the US case, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said some Fifa executives had “used their positions to solicit bribes. They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament”.

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