LONDON: FIFA president Sepp Blatter, now under a criminal investigation, is being urged by critics to step down immediately in favour of an independent reform process.

The call is being led by Transparency International, the International Trade Union Confederation and #NewFIFANow.

Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini, a FIFA vice-president, are under investigation by the ethics chamber after the raid on Friday by Swiss police which led to confirmation of a formal investigation of Blatter’s activities and also implicated Platini. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

The campaign groups are also calling on the sponsors to support this position and use their leverage to seek time-limited interim, independent leadership to end the corruption crisis at FIFA.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary said: “Criminal corruption investigations have reached the highest levels of FIFA.

“This is compounded by FIFA’s refusal to stand up for the migrant workers in Qatar who are paying with their lives to deliver the 2022 World Cup infrastructure. Nothing less than complete change at FIFA, through genuine independent reform, is acceptable.”

The three campaign groups believe the fact that Blatter continues to hang on as president with no-one willing to make the call to suspend him is symptomatic of the ‘FIFA Way’ that needs to be eradicated.

FIFA senior vice-president Issa Hayatou from Cameroon, who is next in line to replace Blatter if suspended, was sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee over bribery allegations in 2011. He has also denied media reports that he accepted a bribe to vote for Qatar 2022.

Cobus de Swardt, managing director of Transparency International said: “The criminal investigations at FIFA have now reached the very top, showing that the organisation is not fit for purpose. It needs independent oversight immediately. No statement from the current management about reform can be trusted.

“Sepp Blatter should have nothing to do with FIFA while these investigations are continuing. As we have said previously, without a real independent reform commission there can be no confidence that FIFA can end this corruption crisis.

“The billions of football fans around the world have watched as FIFA’s name has become synonymous with corruption. It is now time for a change.”

The theme was echoed by #NewFIFANow co-founder, Damian Collins MP.

He said: “We know that the FIFA Ethics Committee serves at the pleasure of the FIFA President – regardless of how FIFA might like to present otherwise. Will the Ethics Committee do their job and suspend him, as others have been?

“If not the Ethics Committee, why hasn’t the Executive Committee done something? Every single one of them continues to be tainted not only by these allegations of corruption but the compounding and growing examples of poor management.

“In normal organisations, if someone in Mr Blatter’s position hadn’t already fallen on his sword, he would have been forced out by the Ethics Committee, by the executive, by the FIFA Congress or by the sponsors.”

The campaign trio is advocating for a time-limited administration led by an eminent person for independent reform of FIFA, as a way of restoring trust, confidence and credibility in the world governing body of football.

To date, their reform call has been supported by three of FIFA’s major sponsors, Coca-Cola, VISA and McDonald’s, as well as the European Parliament.