John Whittingdale, the U.K.’s minister for culture, media and sport, called for FIFA President Sepp Blatter to step down after officials from soccer’s world governing body were arrested on allegations of corruption.
Whittingdale said that while “shocking,” the allegations that FIFA officials received bribes and kickbacks were also “far from surprising.” Prime Minister David Cameron associated himself “fully” with Whittingdale’s comments, his spokesman Jean-Christophe Gray told reporters in London.
“A change of leadership of FIFA is very badly needed,” Whittingdale told lawmakers in the House of Commons on Thursday when asked if Blatter should resign. “This is merely the latest sorry episode that suggests that FIFA is a deeply flawed and corrupt organization.”
Visa Inc., Coca-Cola Co. and other sponsors put pressure on FIFA to resolve the scandal, with Visa threatening to reassess its backing of the Zurich-based organization. The U.S. Justice Department indicted a number of FIFA officials on Wednesday, saying they received bribes to influence the awarding of media and marketing rights, along with the choice of the host country for the 2010 World Cup.
“It’s important that other sponsors reflect on their links to FIFA and consider following Visa’s lead,” Whittingdale said. “The time has clearly come for change.”
The corruption charges are the latest in a series of allegations that have marred the world’s most watched sporting event. Concerns were raised about abuses of migrant workers building stadiums for the Qatar World Cup, scheduled for 2022.
FIFA awarded Qatar the right to host the World Cup five years ago, beating Australia, Japan and South Korea and the U.S. in the bidding process.
The choice of Qatar -- the only country a FIFA assessment ranked as “high” in operational risk because nearly all the facilities for the event needed to be constructed from scratch - - sparked allegations of bribery at the time.
Qatar is spending about $200 billion on infrastructure, including at least eight new stadiums.