Fifa corruption: Congress opens as sponsor concerns grow

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Media captionPressure builds on Fifa's Sepp Blatter to stand down

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 seven top officials on corruption charges.

Visa says it will reassess its sponsorship unless Fifa makes changes. Coca-Cola and Adidas voiced concern.

The European football body Uefa will decide whether to boycott Friday's vote for the next Fifa president.

Incumbent Sepp Blatter has yet to appear in public since the arrests.

Mr Blatter, who is hoping to secure a fifth term at Fifa's congress in the Swiss city of Zurich on Thursday, was not named in the corruption investigations.

'Disastrous image'

Fifa provisionally banned from football-related activity 11 of the 14 people charged by the US authorities on Wednesday.

They are accused of racketeering, fraud and money laundering, including charges of receiving bribes to influence the outcome of bids to stage football tournaments, such as the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2016 Copa America in the US. South African government officials have denied the claim.

Political leaders have started to weigh in on the developments:

  • 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"
  • French Foreign Secretary Laurent Fabius said the charges were "giving a disastrous image" to Fifa and called for a delay to Friday's vote to allow time for the investigation
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said he supported a fifth term for Sepp Blatter as Fifa president and accused the US of trying to block his re-election

Mr Blatter said on Wednesday: "Such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game."

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Media captionCorinne Blatter: "Of course it hurts him... but he will survive whatever happens"

Swiss prosecutors plan to interview 10 Fifa executive committee members as part of a separate investigation into the bidding process for the World Cup tournaments in 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar.

'Tarnished World Cup'

Fifa's key sponsors have issued statements putting increasing pressure on Fifa over the mounting corruption allegations.

  • If Fifa fails to take swift and immediate steps, we will reassess our sponsorship, Credit card giant Visa warned
  • Coca-Cola said: "The lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the Fifa World Cup"
  • Adidas, McDonald's and Hyundai Motor also expressed concern and said they were monitoring the situation closely

Fifa scandal 'a disaster' for sponsors

Image copyright AFP / getty images
Image caption The current and former Fifa executives indicted include Rafael Esquivel, Nicolas Leoz, Jeffrey Webb, Jack Warner, Eduardo Li, Eugenio Figueredo and Jose Maria Marin

Analysis: Matt Slater, BBC Sport

It seemed, to this outsider at least, that US soccer needed a game-changer. It needed US Attorney General Loretta Lynch. But here is the thing. The game in America did not need the 56-year-old lawyer as much as the rest of the global game needed her, and for that football fans everywhere should salute her. This is truly America's day.

The Concacaf operation run by the disgraced Chuck Blazer and Jack Warner was not some rogue outpost of an otherwise spotless corporate giant: it was a case study of what - judging by the details of the US Department of Justice claims - has been allowed to happen around the globe, a symptom of a debilitating disease and quite frankly the most obvious place to start the round-up for US lawmen.

The fact the Swiss seem to be cutting straight to the matter that most concerns football fans, where the next two World Cups will be played, is to be encouraged, but my money is still on the guys in FBI rain jackets bringing everything to a head first.

Why corruption scandal is sport's biggest ever

English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke says he believes the Fifa presidential election should go ahead and says he hopes Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan can replace Mr Blatter.

Uefa, however, has called for postponing the election saying the latest events were "a disaster for Fifa and tarnish the image of football as a whole".

'Year after year'

Those indicted in the US case are accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m (£97m) over a 24-year period beginning in 1991.

Spelling out details, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said some Fifa executives had "used their positions to solicit bribes. They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament".

The seven arrested in Zurich were vice-presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo; Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel and Jose Maria Marin. They face extradition requests from the US.

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Media captionAttorney General Loretta Lynch said that Fifa executives and others used bribes to influence the decision to hold the World Cup in South Africa

They were also subject to the new Fifa ban, along with Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Chuck Blazer and Daryll Warner.

Jack Warner, a former Fifa vice-president, turned himself in to police in his home nation of Trinidad and Tobago late on Wednesday evening. Mr Warner is accused of soliciting $10m in bribes from South Africa's government over the hosting of the 2010 World Cup.

Mr Warner, who spent the night in prison after delays in processing his $395,000 bail, says he is innocent of any charges.

Mr Leoz, 86, is in hospital suffering from flu, his lawyer Fernando Barriocanal said, adding that the Paraguayan was surprised by the charges and ready to defend himself.