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Business

FIFA sponsors welcome Blatter's resignation

FIFA's biggest sponsors have breathed a sigh of relief after the soccer body's embattled president, Sepp Blatter, announced he would resign in the wake of a corruption investigation that shook the world of sports.

For global soccer's most powerful sponsors, FIFA's embattled president Sepp Blatter was as much a source of windfall profits as he was the center of seemingly endless controversy.

On the one side, the now 79-year-old turned the world's most popular sport into a multi-billion-dollar business, doling out lucrative advertising contracts and the rights to host World Cup matches.

But as the

tally of scandals

at soccer's governing body grew, FIFA's official partners could not help but worry that their

reputations could be tarnished

by association.

So it was with

obvious relief

that many of these companies acknowledged

Blatter's surprise announcement on Tuesday

that he would no longer hold the reins of the world's most popular sport.

That said, many of the statements drafted after Blatter's hastily organized press conference, during which he announced that he would be stepping down, very closely mirrored one another in their careful wording, ambiguity and cautious optimism.

A step in the right direction

Coca-Cola called his decision "a positive step for the good of sport, football and its fans."

Visa, which last week threatened to rescind its sponsorship if the FIFA scandals failed to abate, said Blatter's departure was "a significant first step towards rebuilding public trust."

Adidas, the German sportswear company that has one of the longest standing associations with FIFA, said it supported the soccer body's "commitment to change."

"Today's news marks a step in the right direction on FIFA's path to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do," Adidas said.

A number of FIFA sponsors have in past years lamented allegations of mismanagement and bribery levied against the organization, which McDonald's on Tuesday said had "overshadowed the game and taken away from the sport, players and fans."

The fast food giant said it hoped a reshuffling at FIFA's helm would "be a big first step in positively reforming the organization and gaining back trust from fans worldwide."

Other major sponsors include Russia's Gazprom, South Korea's Hyundai and Budweiser-brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA.

Just one man

But some have cautioned that the departure of one man may not be enough to usher in sweeping changes.

"There will be a new leader, which is positive, but it is very difficult for one person to change the culture of an organization," Susan Liautaud, a public policy lecturer at Stanford University, told the Reuters news agency.

Blatter's resignation

came just four days after he was

re-elected for a fifth term

as president and six days after Swiss authorities raided a posh hotel in Zurich and

arrested several FIFA officials

. But whether his departure and those arrests will make it easier for corporations to continue their sponsorships remains to be seen.

"They're not going to be as stressed," Miro Copic, a marketing professor at San Diego State University and a consulting executive, said of FIFA's sponsors. "I think one of the major linchpins and major challenges was Sepp Blatter himself."

cjc/hg (AFP, Reuters)

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