1 Fifa corruption sparks sponsor concern (BBC) Key sponsors of Fifa have expressed “serious concern” after the US accused senior officials of football’s governing body of racketeering, fraud and money laundering. Coca-Cola said the World Cup had been “tarnished” by “lengthy controversy”. Seven top officials were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday, among a group of 14 people indicted.
Fifa has announced a provisional ban from football-related activity on 11 of the people involved in the US prosecution. But it said Friday’s vote – in which Fifa president Sepp Blatter is seeking a fifth term – would go ahead. Swiss prosecutors have also opened a separate investigation into the bidding process for the World Cup tournaments in 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar.
Fifa’s key sponsors, including Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa, Sony, Gazprom and Hyundai/KIA have faced increasing calls to put pressure on Fifa as corruption allegations have mounted. Cobus de Swardt, managing director of campaigning group Transparency International, said: “If you are putting many, many millions of euros into a business, then you definitely have a right and responsibility to demand that you are not tainted.”
Fifa’s main sponsors are afforded exposure in stadiums and have the right to use Fifa trademarks in advertising. Mr Blatter also received a stinging rebuke from Uefa. The European football governing body said the events were “a disaster for Fifa and tarnish the image of football as a whole”. It said corruption was deeply rooted in Fifa’s culture.
2 Greece is all but bankrupt (Landon Thomas Jr in The New York Times) Two weeks ago, Greece nearly defaulted on a debt payment of 750 million euros, or about $825 million, to the International Monetary Fund. For the rest of this month, Greece should be able to cover daily cash deficits of around 100 million euros. Starting June 5, however, these shortfalls will rise sharply, to around 400 million euros as another IMF obligation comes due. They will then double in size on June 8 and 9. “At that point it is all over,” said a senior Greek finance official.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’challenge is to keep the backing of a majority of Syriza’s party officials and legislators. A new election would provide a way for Tsipras to kick out the hard-liners in his party. Interior minister, Nikos Voutsis, said that there would not be enough money to pay the IMF if there was no deal by June 5.
In a society that has lived off the generosity of the government for decades, the cash crisis has already had a shattering impact. Universities, hospitals and municipalities are struggling to provide basic services, and the country’s underfunded security apparatus is losing its battle against an influx of illegal immigrants. In effect, analysts say, Greece is already operating as a bankrupt state.
The government’s call to conserve funds has been far-reaching. All embassies and consulates — as well as municipalities throughout the country — have been told to forward surplus funds to Athens. Hospitals and schools face strict orders not to hire doctors and teachers. And national security officials complain they are under intense pressure to keep air and sea missions to a minimum, at a time when migrants from Africa and the Middle East are rushing to Greece’s shores.
For a generation of Greek politicians who saw government spending (and borrowing) as a national birth right, the idea of deploying only the money at hand has been jarring. Security experts say that well-to-do families in suburban pockets surrounding Athens are now supplying critical funds to local police departments.
At the University of Athens, the country’s largest educational institution and home to about 125,000 students, the annual operating budget has fallen to €10 million from about €40 million before the crisis. In the first four months of this year, health officials say that the 140 or so public hospitals in Greece received just €43 million from the state — down from €650 million during the same period last year.
3 Facebook claims 40m small business pages (Benjamin Synder in Fortune) Facebook has 40 million active small business pages, the company has announced. Almost all of the 2 million who advertise on the platform are small business owners, up from 1.5 million last year. Facebook defines an active small business page as a profile that has posted information in the last 28 days. Facebook said it had 30 million active small business pages last June.
The social media company has been on a full-court press to keep business owners happy. It’s set to unveil a chat function, for instance, that offers “live one-on-one support, so businesses can ask questions and get the answers they need, in real time,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
But Facebook’s recent efforts to court small business owners come after the company made changes that left some of them confused at best, and angry at worst. While many small business owners had come to view their Facebook page as a source of free or nearly free advertising, Facebook’s recent alterations made it harder for small businesses to get ad-style content in users’ feeds without paying up.