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Fifa’s top-tier partners welcome Blatter’s resignation

Fifa’s five top-tier sponsors have broadly welcomed Sepp Blatter’s announcement that he will step down as president of world football’s governing body, but Coca-Cola and Visa have repeated warnings that they expect to see significant change at the organisation.

Blatter announced his resignation yesterday (Tuesday) at a hastily convened press conference in Zurich, Switzerland, where last Wednesday a series of arrests, initiated by an investigation by the US Department of Justice into alleged corruption at the governing body, marked the beginning of a Fifa Congress that culminated in the Swiss official’s re-election for a fresh four-year term.

Fifa’s current top-tier partners – Adidas, Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Hyundai/Kia and Visa – last week all spoke out over the developments in Zurich. Visa was the most vocal in its criticism, a pattern that has been repeated following Blatter’s announcement yesterday.

In January 2014, Visa extended its top-tier partnership with Fifa until 2022. As a top-level Fifa partner alongside Adidas, Coca-Cola, Gazprom and Hyundai/Kia, the deal grants the electronic payments company global marketing rights and product category exclusivity for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and more than 40 Fifa events scheduled throughout the time period, including the Women’s World Cup and the U-20 World Cup.

In its latest statement Visa said: “We are encouraged by the recognition by Fifa that extensive and fundamental reform is needed as reflected by the announcement that president Blatter is resigning and that Fifa will be undergoing a ‘profound overhaul’. This is a significant first step towards rebuilding public trust, but more work lies ahead. Transparency, integrity and fair play must be the hallmarks of the new administration and Visa stands ready to work with Fifa towards these principles. We repeat, however, that it is our expectation that Fifa will take swift and immediate steps towards addressing the issues within its organisation to quickly rebuild a culture with strong ethical practices that will restore the reputation of the games for fans around the world.”

Coca-Cola has sponsored Fifa and the World Cup for four decades and is committed to backing the 2018 and 2022 tournaments in Russia and Qatar, respectively. It said: “The announcement today is a positive step for the good of sport, football and its fans. Our expectation remains that Fifa will continue to act with urgency to take concrete actions to fully address all of the issues that have been raised and win back the trust of all who love the sport of football. We believe this decision will help Fifa transform itself rapidly into a much-needed 21st century structure and institution.”

Adidas extended its long-term partnership with Fifa until 2030 under a deal struck in November 2013. The German company is an official partner, supplier and licensee for the World Cup and all Fifa events, extending a relationship that first commenced in 1970. It said Tuesday’s news marked “a step in the right direction on Fifa's path to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do.”

Korean automaker Hyundai-Kia, the sole Asian top-tier partner which has a contract covering Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022, said the resignation was a “positive first step in creating a governance structure that ensures the highest ethical standards for the sport.”

Russian energy giant Gazprom is a newcomer to the top-tier family having signed a four-year sponsorship deal with Fifa in September 2013 which will take in the country’s staging of its first World Cup in 2018. The state-owned company officially joined Fifa’s commercial portfolio in 2015, with the agreement running through to the 2018 World Cup.

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov told the Bloomberg news agency that the company's sponsorship agreement “doesn't stipulate any changes in case of change of Fifa management.” Gazprom added that “Blatter did a lot for development of soccer, he's a very vivid and ambitious person.”