After nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives were indicted Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption, sponsors of world soccer's governing body reacted strongly to the latest scandal enveloping FIFA.
CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, along with former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, were among the executives arrested and charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.
Visa extended its sponsorship deal with FIFA last year to cover the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 cup in Qatar at an estimated value of $184,208,400. The world's biggest bank-card network announced in a release on Wednesday that it would reassess its FIFA sponsorship.
“Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound,” Visa's release read. “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.
“Visa became a sponsor of FIFA because the World Cup is one of the few truly global sporting events with the power to unite people from around the world through a common love of football. Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement – and it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”
Visa previously expressed concern over FIFA scandals, issuing a release in November over alleged corruption in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes. “We are troubled by the recent events surrounding FIFA,” the company wrote then. “In our discussions we have clearly stated that greater 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. 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.”
Aside from Visa, Coca-Cola Co., McDonald’s Corp. and other World Cup sponsors criticized FIFA on Wednesday. Adidas, FIFA's oldest partner, did not comment directly on the incident but said the company is “fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners" before urging FIFA to “continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do.”
- Mike Fiammetta