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FIFA Sponsors Weigh Support After Corruption Charges

  • VOA News

Two men talk to each other in front of the FIFA logo at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Two men talk to each other in front of the FIFA logo at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Sponsors are calling for football's governing body FIFAto make changes while its regional federations debate the future of its often-criticized leader after the United States and Switzerland unveiled major corruption investigations.

Credit card company Visa made the strongest statement after the U.S. Justice Department unveiled an indictment Wednesday charging 14 people with offenses that include racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

Call for reforms

Visa expressed "profound" disappointment and said that without reforms, the company would reassess its sponsorship of FIFA.

"As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization," the credit card company said in a statement. "This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere."

Coca-Cola Co. also said it has repeatedly expressed concern about the allegations and expects FIFA to thoroughly address the issues, while Adidas called on FIFA to "follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do."

FILE - FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Leadership vote

Meanwhile, the Asian Football Confederation said Thursday that Friday's scheduled vote for FIFA's president should go ahead as planned and that it supports current President Sepp Blatter.

Blatter is trying to win a fifth term with Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein as his opposition.

The Union of European Football Association, UEFA, called for the election to be postponed for six months, saying "there is a strong need for a change to the leadership of this FIFA."

Blatter is not among the nine current and former top FIFA officials charged Wednesday. He issued his own statement vowing that those involved in misconduct will be "put out of the game."

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Thursday that whoever serves as FIFA's next president should take steps to ensure future World Cup host cities focus on basic human rights.

"The arrests have spotlighted FIFA's unaccountable system, but there should also be a new scrutiny of the conditions for a vast army of migrant laborers who are building massive new infrastructure to host the World Cup," said Minky Worden, HRW's director of global initiatives.

Federal agents carry out boxes of evidence taken from the headquarters of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF,) May 27, 2015, in Miami Beach, Fla.

US, Swiss investigations

The U.S. investigation stretches back to 1991 with allegations that include sports media executives paying or agreeing to pay $150 million in bribes in exchange for marketing rights to tournaments, as well as corruption related to the 2011 FIFA presidential election and the sponsorship of Brazil's soccer federation by a U.S. sportswear company.

Authorities in Zurich, Switzerland, arrested seven people early Wednesday, while the FBI raided the Miami offices of CONCACAF, the regional body governing North and Central America.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the allegations "rampant, systemic and deep-rooted" corruption that "profoundly harmed a multitude of victims."

"They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament," Lynch said. "They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves."

Swiss authorities also unveiled a separate investigation into allegations of mismanagement and money laundering connected to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

FIFA's ethics committee investigated similar allegations, and concluded in November that there were only "limited" ethics breaches and not sufficient evidence of bribery in awarding the tournaments.

FIFA said it is fully cooperating with both U.S. and Swiss authorities, and that it is in the "highest interest" of the organization that all questions are answered.