The sponsors have finally felt compelled to intervene. Actual criminal charges laid against Sepp Blatter have proven the trigger for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa and Budweiser to step in and call for change.
There’s little doubt they are doing the right thing. Their reputations could not help but to have been marred by their association with an organisation as sordid as FIFA, particularly if they are seen to sit idly by.
In calling for Blatter’s head they have agreed that as the sponsors they do have a responsibility towards the activity they support, the World Cup and the governance around it. In other words, as well as supporting an event, sponsorship also implies condoning the behaviour and values it exhibits.
That should be a problem for the sponsors. On the back of this spirited intervention, the question they should now answer is “why now?” or more specifically “why not sooner?”.
The implication has to be that the sponsors were fine with everything that came before the very recent Swiss criminal charges.
Coca Cola is almost certainly right that the “image and reputation of FIFA continues to tarnish”, as it said, and McDonald’s that the “best interests of the game” are to clean out corruption sooner rather than later.
This reaction follows the criminal charges that Blatter agreed to a TV contract that is “unfavourable” to FIFA and made a “disloyal payment” to Michel Platini at Uefa.
Does that mean that all the earlier scandals and abuses, such as cash for votes in deciding who would host future World Cups, were OK with the sponsors?
It is very easy to see how difficult these questions are for massive global sponsorships. Each brand desperately wants to be associated with the World Cup and they know if they pull out others will jump in to replace them.
Coke, McDonald’s, Visa and Budweiser have done well at last but surely having admitted they have a responsibility they should have discharged it more vigorously and much sooner?