(Reuters) - Women’s World Cup officials and sponsors expressed concern over the corruption scandal swirling around world soccer’s governing body on Wednesday while trying to keep the focus on the global showcase that kicks off in 10 days across Canada.
Tremors from the arrest in Switzerland of seven of FIFA’s most powerful figures on corruption charges reached across the Atlantic, rattling the build-up to the World Cup, but did not shake confidence in the Canadian Soccer Association’s ability to stage a successful tournament that begins on June 6 in Edmonton.
“We are extremely disappointed by today’s developments and welcome and support all efforts to eliminate this type of behavior in the sport,” the CSA said in a statement.
“As the host nation for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015, the Canadian Soccer Association is confident that the current situation will not impact the competition.
“We are positive that the 30 days of competition will bring exciting soccer to all fans in Canada and around the world.”
U.S. authorities said nine soccer officials and five sports media and promotions executives faced corruption charges involving more than $150 million in bribes.
In pursuit of the U.S. case, Swiss police arrested seven FIFA officials who are now awaiting extradition to the United States.
Separate from the U.S. investigation, Swiss prosecutors said they had opened their own criminal proceedings against unidentified people on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar.
Canadian sports minister Bal Gosal said he was confident that Canadian soccer officials would not be dragged into the scandal and that the Women’s World Cup would be a success.
“I’m very satisfied that Canada is very up front,” Gosal told reporters after a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill. “We’re looking forward to hosting the World Cup.”
The U.S. women’s team heads to Canada as the tournament’s top-ranked team favored to lift a third title and focused only on the task in front of them, not the turmoil embroiling FIFA.
“Right now, our focus is on what’s ahead of us,” said American coach Jill Ellis. “We’re just focused on what we can control.
“It’s bigger than organizations. This is passion, this is life. This is our sport.”
Despite Ellis’s efforts to keep discussion on the World Cup, all the soccer talk on Wednesday revolved around the scandal unfolding in Switzerland.
Sponsors were keeping a close eye on developments but were not panicked by the investigation.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the parent company of Labatt’s brewery, one of CSA’s major sponsors, said it was “closely monitoring” the situation while telecommunications giant Bell, owned by BCE Inc, urged FIFA for transparency.
“Our sponsorship relationship with FIFA is specific to this Canadian tournament,” said Loring Phinney, vice president of corporate marketing at Bell.
“We encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do.”
(Story refiled to remove typo from headline)
Additional reporting Larry Fine and Alastair Sharp; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes