Fifa’s top sponsors will hope that next month’s presidential election could mark a turning point for the tarnished image of the organisation however pro-democracy campaigners have flagged up presidential hopeful Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa over reports of alleged torture.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) have written to Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Visa, Adidas, Budweiser, Gazprom and Kia insisting that Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa has questions to answer over his alleged involved in punishing clubs after the 2011 pro-democracy uprising in the country.
The group claims that Sheikh Salman, currently one of the favourites to replace Sepp Blatter, the Bahrain Football Association (BFA), of which Sheikh Salman was president at the time, suspended and punished six clubs on politically motivated grounds.
The clubs are reported to have written to the BFA asking for their matches to be suspended on safety grounds given the security situation in the country and were subsequently fined and two relegated.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of BIRD urged the sponsors to “consider our letter very seriously and respond immediately and appropriately.”
Alwadaei claims Sheikh Salman led the politicised punishment of clubs, describing the incident as a “black mark” on country’s history and asks for him to be “held accountable for the part he played.”
Sheikh Salman has repeatedly denied the claims that he was involved in identifying players involved in the protests who were later imprisoned and, for some, even tortured.
The Associated Press reported in 2011 that more than 150 athletes, coaches and referees were jailed after being identified from photos of protests.
Sheikh Salman’s name has been blanketed in scepticism before he even announced his candidacy given Blatter’s involvement in landing him the presidential role of the Asian Football Confederation in 2013.
Fifa’s top sponsors including Coca Cola and McDonald’s have already publically spoken out against the corruption within the footballing governing body and were vocal in calling for Blatter’s resignation in June. With that in mind it’s likely that they will take similar action in preventing any further controversy that looks likely to accompany Sheikh Salman.
Recently Gianni Infantino unveiled his election manifesto which places emphasis on “rebuilding trust” at the controversial plagued organisation.