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Fifa congress opens as sponsor concerns grow over arrests

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Football’s governing body Fifa is due to open its annual congress despite warnings from sponsors that they may review ties over the arrest of senior officials on corruption charges. Coca-Cola, Adidas and Visa were among the companies to voice their concern. The European football body Uefa will decide whether to boycott Friday’s vote for the next Fifa president.

Seven top Fifa officials were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday, among a group of 14 people indicted. Fifa on Wednesday announced a provisional ban from football-related activity on 11 of the people involved in the US prosecution.

But it said the election on Friday – in which Fifa president Sepp Blatter is seeking a fifth term – would go ahead. Commenting a day after the arrests, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC there was “something deeply wrong at the heart of Fifa and international football needs to reform, needs to get its act together”.

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.”

He is due to make his first appearance since the arrests at Fifa’s annual congress in the Swiss city of Zurich on Thursday.
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 have faced increasing calls to put pressure on Fifa as corruption allegations have mounted. Coca-Cola said: “This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the Fifa World Cup.”

Credit card giant Visa said its “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”

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”

McDonald’s, a second-tier sponsor, said the latest developments were “extremely concerning” and was closely monitoring the situation

Hyundai Motor told the BBC it was “extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Fifa’s main sponsors are afforded exposure in stadiums and have the right to use Fifa trademarks in advertising. Blatter also received a stinging rebuke from Uefa, which 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. The European body said Friday’s congress risked becoming a “farce” and that the vote should be postponed. BBC

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