By Simon Evans
FIFA President Sepp Blatter and European football chief Michel Platini were both banned from football for eight years on Monday for ethics violations, leaving the global game leaderless as it fights a swirl of corruption cases.
The pair, who were also fined, had been suspended in October while an investigation was carried out into a two million Swiss franc payment that football’s global governing body made to Platini in 2011, with Blatter’s approval.
The decision means that Blatter’s 17 years at the helm of world football will end in disgrace, and spells the end of Platini’s hopes of replacing the 79-year-old Swiss in a presidential election in February.
FIFA’s Ethics Committee said it had not found evidence that the payment, made at a time when Blatter was seeking re-election, constituted a bribe, but that it had nevertheless lacked transparency and presented a conflict of interest.
This meant the men were spared potential life bans. Both have denied any wrongdoing and are almost certain to challenge the decision in FIFA’s Appeals Committee and, if necessary, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“The evidence available to the adjudicatory chamber in the present case was not sufficient to establish, to the extent required, that Mr Blatter sought the execution or omission of an official act from Mr Platini,” said a statement, referring to the ‘bribery and corruption’ section of the code.
But the committee’s adjudicatory chamber did find that the payment had been “without a legal basis” and a breach of regulations governing gifts and other benefits.
ABUSE OF POSITIONS
It said Blatter “found himself in a situation of conflict of interest, despite which he continued to perform his related duties, failing to disclose said situation and the existence of personal interests linked to his prospective activities”.
“By failing to place FIFA’s interests first and abstain from doing anything which could be contrary to FIFA’s interests, Mr Blatter violated his fiduciary duty to FIFA,” it added.
The chamber concluded that Blatter’s actions ultimately demonstrated “an abusive execution of his position as President of FIFA”.
It also said Platini’s argument that there had been an oral agreement for the payment had not been convincing, and that he, too, had abused his position as a FIFA vice-president and Executive Committee member.
“Mr Platini failed to act with complete credibility and integrity, showing unawareness of the importance of his duties and concomitant obligations and responsibilities,” it said.
Blatter was fined 50,000 Swiss francs and Platini 80,000.
The ethics inquiry began in the wake of the Swiss attorney general’s decision to open criminal proceedings against Blatter over the payment to Platini. The office is also investigating FIFA’s award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar.
In the United States, prosecutors have indicted 27 current or former football officials, including eight former FIFA executive committee members and the current heads of both the North and South American federations, over allegations that they ran bribery schemes connected to the sale of television rights for soccer competitions. Twelve people and two sports marketing companies have been convicted.