FRANKFURT • The head of German sportswear giant adidas hinted for the first time yesterday at the possibility of cutting links with Fifa in the wake of the corruption allegations dogging the bidding process for the 2006 World Cup.
"If Fifa succeeds in reforming itself - and in my view, they're making good progress here - then we will continue," adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer told the business daily Handelsblatt.
Adidas has sponsored Fifa for more than 40 years and the current contract runs until 2030. But if Fifa fails to get its house in order, "we will have to think about what the alternatives are", Hainer said.
German football has been engulfed by claims that a €6.7 million (S$10.3 million) payment to Fifa was used to purchase the votes of four members of Fifa's executive committee in 2000 - days before Germany narrowly won the right to host the 2006 Finals.
The manner in which the ethics committee communicates... calling for the maximum penalty and reinforcing public prejudice, introduces a tendentious and dangerous dimension.
SEPP BLATTER, suspended Fifa president
Fifa chief Sepp Blatter has been suspended by the organisation he has headed for 17 years and faces a hearing with the ethics committee today over corruption allegations.
On Tuesday, he questioned the credibility of the committee in a letter to Fifa's 209 member associations, which the Swiss national sent in a private capacity.
"The manner in which the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee communicates in the ongoing investigation, calling for the maximum penalty and reinforcing public prejudice, introduces a tendentious and dangerous dimension," he wrote.
He described the ethics investigation as "an inquisition", a comparison he has made multiple times in recent weeks.
His spokesman Klaus Stoehlker separately said that Blatter was referring to comments made by the spokesman for the ethics committee's investigatory chamber, Andreas Bantel.
Bantel told the French newspaper L'Equipe that Blatter's punishment would be the equivalent of a "life ban" because he is already 79, comments that some saw as violating the presumption of innocence as they came before a verdict.
The ethics committee, which suspended Blatter and Uefa boss Michel Platini in October, is partly probing a 2 million Swiss francs (S$2.84 million) payment Blatter authorised to Platini in 2011, reportedly for work done a decade earlier.
Both men insist the payment was legitimate and part of a verbal contract between Platini and world football's governing body.
Meanwhile, two prominent Latin American football officials pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in a New York court over their alleged roles in the Fifa scandal.
Juan Angel Napout, a Fifa vice-president and former president of the South American confederation Conmebol, pleaded not guilty to five charges of racketeering and bribery offences.
Rafael Callejas, who was president of Honduras from 1990 to 1994, similarly denied his guilt. He faces eight charges and was remanded in custody.