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Coke, Visa among major sponsors visiting Fifa to discuss scandal

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Soccer governing body Fifa met with five of its major sponsors Thursday as it tries to regain credibility following a corruption scandal that has led to the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

[ZURICH] Soccer governing body Fifa met with five of its major sponsors Thursday as it tries to regain credibility following a corruption scandal that has led to the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

"Fifa met with its commercial affiliates AB InBev, Adidas, Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Visa at the home of Fifa to discuss current matters," the Zurich-based organisation said in a statement.

After saying very little as allegations of wrongdoing against Fifa officials mounted in recent years, some sponsors, notably Visa and Coca-Cola, Fifa's oldest sponsor, criticised the organization following the May arrest of senior Fifa executives on corruption charges.

The sponsors issued a statement following the meeting saying, "We reiterated our expectations for robust reform, and we will continue to engage with Fifa." Fifa made US$5.7 billion for the four years through 2014, according to its latest financial report. Its marketing contracts represented 29 per cent of the total, the second- highest component after broadcast contracts.

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Fifa says it's in the process of restructuring parts of the organization, notably its scandal-tainted executive board. Nine former and current officials, including two current vice presidents, were named in a US indictment that alleges more than two decades of corrupt practices. Swiss police acting on US extradition requests arrested seven officials in May, two days before Fifa's presidential election.

In an effort to reduce the pressure on the organization he's led since 1998, President Sepp Blatter said he would step down four days after winning a fifth term in office. A new election is scheduled for Feb 26.

"During the meeting, Fifa reaffirmed its commitment to transparency, reform and collaboration with its valued partners," Fifa's statement said.

Independent Body Fifa Secretary General Jerome Valcke said last month that Coca-Cola, Visa and McDonald's had written asking for information about what the organization was doing to improve corporate governance and restore its reputation.

Coke and Visa said Fifa should allow an independent body to lead the reforms. Fifa has instead created an internal body, which is being led by former International Olympic Committee Director General Francois Carrard. He'll be assisted by representatives nominated from soccer's six confederations and two officials chosen by sponsors. The first meeting is scheduled for Sept 3 in the Swiss capital, Bern.

Visa in July called Fifa's response to the crisis "wholly inadequate." Also in July, Coca-Cola said it advocated a third-party commission led by "one or more eminent, impartial leaders" to reform Fifa. Fifa's other partners are Gazprom and Hyundai. Valcke said in July the scandal has hurt Fifa's efforts to find new sponsors.

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