As the vote for FIFA president looms Friday, the 2018 World Cup sponsors are making their position known: Shape up, or we're out.
The latest statement came from Kia Motors, a presenting sponsor of the World Cup along with Visa, Adidas, Gazprom and Coca-Cola. Kia is “extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor this situation closely," the company said in a statement released today.
Hyundai, Kia’s parent company, also said it was “deeply concerned” in its own statement.
The announcement came after a very strongly worded statement from Visa on Wednesday demanding that the federation make changes to the way it conducts its business. "It is important that FIFA makes changes now," the statement said. "Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship."
The week's arrests, which were the result of a long investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, came as no surprise to the world's football fans, who have come to regard FIFA as a corrupt enterprise. Yet the presenting partners, who are paying FIFA tens of millions of dollars a year, reacted to the news in a variety of ways.
Gazprom said the arrests were "unrelated" to its relationship to the World Cup and said its relationship with FIFA was "not affected."
Should Visa or any of FIFA's other partners walk away from their agreements, the federation may have a tough time replacing them while this indictment plays itself out, experts say. Though the arrests and trial could take months to sort out, change of some sort could come in a matter of days: FIFA is scheduled to elect a new president Friday.