Less than a week after Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced high level arrests and a probe into corruption allegations against FIFA, and days after he was re-elected as president, Sepp Blatter held a press conference to announce that he is resigning from the post. He’s calling on FIFA to hold an election for a new president ASAP.
“FIFA needs a profound restructuring,” said the 79-year-old leader. Umm. Yeah.
“Earlier Tuesday, FIFA responded to an article by The New York Times linking Jérôme Falcke, FIFA’s secretary general, to payments made in 2008 that investigators believe amounted to $10 million in bribes,” the newspaper writes. “FIFA said in a statement that the payments, which are at the center of a United States Justice Department investigation that led to a 47-count indictment against soccer officials and sports marketing executives, were approved in 2007 by Julio Grondona. Mr. Grondona, who was the chairman of FIFA’s finance committee at the time, died last year.”
The U.S., a country not known for its soccer fanaticism, is now paying attention to FIFA because of this investigation. And that’s just one of the organization’s worries. Based on what we’re seeing in the news, the countries that really do support soccer globally are also pretty fed up with the impropriety that has become more and more apparent. (All perhaps except for China and Russia, two countries that supported Blatter.) Here’s John Oliver’s brilliant take on the issue. (h/t National Post)
In case you didn’t watch that (you should), Oliver ultimately calls for the ouster of Blatter. And if the U.S. justice system can’t do it, PR’s own Peter Shankman proposes that companies like Budweiser and Adidas–the sponsors–should get the job done. If we had to take a wild guess, it’s the discontent openly expressed by those sponsors, as much as the legal charges, that got the resignation done.
Last week, Adidas put out the following statement:
The Adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do.
Adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.
Coca-Cola has also said the charges “tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations.”
And Visa said in a lengthy statement available here, “As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.”
FIFA has to clean house if it’s going to get itself out of this disastrous situation. And without FIFA to be concerned about Blatter can focus on other things like word from ABC News that the FBI and U.S. prosecutors have turned their attentions to him.
Here’s video of Blatter’s resignation remarks, care of Fusion.