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​Coca-Cola says FIFA's Sepp Blatter has to go -- now

ZURICH - Coca-Cola (KO) became the first FIFA sponsor on Friday to call on Sepp Blatter to immediately stand down as president of world soccer's governing body. That was followed by similar calls from fast-food giant McDonald's (MCD) and financial services giant Visa (V).

But Blatter will not resign ahead of February's emergency presidential election despite the sponsors' demands.

A statement from Blatter's lawyer said, "While Coca Cola is a valued sponsor of FIFA, Mr. Blatter respectfully disagrees with its position and believes firmly that his leaving office now would not be in the best interest of FIFA nor would it advance the process of reform and therefore, he will not resign."

Sepp Blatter resigning from FIFA amid corrupt... 02:24

The intervention from the major sponsors came a week after the 79-year-old Swiss was placed under criminal investigation by Swiss authorities for alleged financial wrongdoing at FIFA, which he has led since 1998.

"For the benefit of the game, The Coca-Cola Company is calling for FIFA President Joseph Blatter to step down immediately so that a credible and sustainable reform process can begin in earnest," Coca-Cola said in a statement. "Every day that passes, the image and reputation of FIFA continues to tarnish. FIFA needs comprehensive and urgent reform, and that can only be accomplished through a truly independent approach."

The 79-year-old Swiss told FIFA staff earlier this week he's determined to remain in power until February's emergency presidential election, but pressure from sponsors that fund the organization could force him out before then.

Blatter's own position has been weakened as lawyers oversee key decisions at scandal-battered FIFA and he waits to hear whether he will be suspended by the ethics committee.

Blatter did address a leadership issue earlier Friday in FIFA's in-house magazine -- but not his own.

He complained that quotas must be implemented to stop men dominating positions of power in football.

"Football continues to be dominated by men," Blatter wrote in FIFA Weekly. "It is our duty to change this. Women must feel that they have an equal chance of succeeding in football as their male counterparts.

"FIFA, the confederations and our member associations have to break the cycle that makes it so much easier for men to ascend to positions of responsibility. This is not just a moral duty."

Blatter said there is "compelling evidence that gender-balanced organizations make better decisions and produce better results."

There are currently no female contenders in the race to succeed Blatter in the Feb. 26 election.

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