Football

Leading FIFA sponsor criticises Sepp Blatter

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The head of leading FIFA sponsor Visa has delivered a stinging attack on Sepp Blatter claiming there can be no meaningful reforms until he leaves as president of the organisation.

Blatter is insistent he will remain in the position until the election of his successor on February 26 next year and this week announced a task force to bring in reforms.

But Visa chief executive Charlie Scharf said FIFA's response to the corruption crisis had been "wholly inadequate" and joined fellow sponsors Coca-Cola in demanding a fully-independent reform commission.

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Speaking on a conference call announcing Visa's quarterly earnings, Scharf said: "We view the stewardship of our company, our brand, and our clients with the utmost importance and try to hold ourselves to the highest standards.

"We seek to partner with those who think and act like us. I don't believe that FIFA is living up to these standards. Furthermore, their subsequent responses are wholly inadequate and continue to show its lack of awareness of the seriousness of the changes which are needed.

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"To this end, we believe two things need to happen to ensure credible reform. First, an independent, third-party commission led by one or more impartial leaders is critical to formulate reforms.

"Second, we believe no meaningful reform can be made under FIFA's existing leadership. Football itself is a great sport with which we are proud to be associated. We want to be proud to be associated with FIFA and hope and look forward to working with them to that end."

Seven FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich in May after the US justice department indicted a total of 18 people on football-related corruption charges. A separate investigation into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has been launched by Swiss prosecutors.

Domenico Scala, the independent chairman of FIFA's audit and compliance committee, has emerged as a candidate to head the reform task force but it is not clear whether he would be separate enough from FIFA to satisfy Visa.

UEFA president Michel Platini, the favourite to succeed Blatter, is understood to be open to the idea of Scala being appointed but would prefer someone without any FIFA connections taking the position.

Meanwhile, Brazil striker Hulk has pulled out of taking part in Saturday's preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup in St Petersburg.

FIFA said Hulk has been replaced due to club commitments with Zenit St Petersburg, with former Chelsea and Russia midfielder Alexei Smertin taking his place.

Earlier this week Hulk said he encountered racism in almost every match he played in Russia.

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