Drinks giant Coca-Cola has become the latest World Cup sponsor to call on soccer's rulers to deal thoroughly with allegations of bribery to secure the 2022 World Cup for Qatar, an issue overshadowing this week's kickoff in Brazil. Adidas, Sony and Visa earlier this week also expressed their concerns.
With its four yearly showpiece event only four days away, soccer's governing body FIFA is on the defensive, conducting an internal investigation into the decisions to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar. Both countries have denied any wrongdoing.
Qatar's bid has attracted controversy from the outset because of the extreme summer heat during the months when the Cup is played and the tiny country's lack of domestic soccer tradition. If it goes ahead, the tournament is expected to be switched to a date later in the year, creating scheduling headaches for broadcasters and European club soccer clubs.
The signs of unease from some of FIFA's paymasters will raise pressure on the body, led by its 78-year-old Swiss president Sepp Blatter, to get to the bottom of the allegations and tackle underlying concerns about how it is run.
"The negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners," said German sportswear company Adidas, which has signed up as FIFA sponsor until 2030, extending a partnership dating back to 1970.
"Anything that detracts from the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup is a concern to us," a company statement read.
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