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Sponsors Cry Foul Over Fifa Infighting

Roger Blitz, Financial Times
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 | 1:40 AM ET

Some of football’s biggest sponsors are raising the alarm over infighting at Fifa even as Sepp Blatter, its president, dismissed the bribery storm engulfing the sport’s governing body as a few “difficulties” rather than a crisis.

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Coca-Cola, a World Cup sponsor, said: “The allegations being raised are distressing and bad for the sport. We have every expectation that Fifa will resolve this situation in an expedient and thorough manner."

Adidas has already voiced its concern, saying the negative publicity was “neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners”.

Striking a defiant tone at a press conference in Zurich, Mr Blatter accepted that the bribery allegations that prompted the governing body on Sunday to suspend two members of the executive committee (Exco) – including his erstwhile presidential rival – had done “great damage to the image of Fifa”.

But he rejected calls from the UK government for the presidential election, taking place on Wednesday with Mr Blatter as the only candidate, to be suspended.

He said Fifa was strong enough to deal with its own problems. Asked if it was true that Fifa was in crisis, he said: “Crisis, what is a crisis? We are not in a crisis. We are only in some difficulties and these will be solved inside our family.”

Fifa executives spent Monday firefighting allegations thrown at them by Jack Warner, one of two suspended Exco members.

Mr Blatter and Jerome Valcke, Fifa’s secretary-general, were forced to defend the integrity of Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup.

Mr Warner released an e-mail, written by Mr Valcke, in which the secretary-general said Qatar had “bought” the World Cup. Mr Valcke said he was merely referring to the financial strength behind the Gulf state’s bid. The Fifa president said he would not deal with “people who want to create problems”.

Mohamed bin Hammam, who was Mr Blatter’s presidential rival until withdrawing his candidacy on Sunday, was also suspended by Fifa. He is alleged to have paid Caribbean football officials $40,000 each at an election campaign meeting earlier this month in return for their vote.

A photograph was made public of a bundle of cash, which formed part of a dossier on the alleged bribery.

Mr bin Hammam and Mr Warner deny the allegations.

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