IN THE END the mighty FIFA president Sepp Blatter was ousted from the post he had held for 17 years by the ethics committee of world football’s governing body. The Swiss, who had worked for FIFA since 1975, was suspended from football for eight years over an unauthorised 2 million Swiss franc payment to the president of UEFA (the European football governing body) Michel Platini in 2011. Platini, who had ambitions of succeeding Blatter as president of FIFA, was also suspended for eight years.
Both claimed that the payment was part of a gentleman’s agreement between them that dated back to 1998 when Blatter hired Platini as his advisor to help him with his election. The Swiss had allegedly promised to pay the Frenchman, on a salary of 300,000 Swiss francs, an additional 500,000 Swiss francs per year at an indeterminate point in the future, but Platini, who left the job in 2002 had not put in a claim for the money until 2011 when he sent his invoices to FIFA. The payment was being investigated by the Swiss attorney general.
Interestingly, Platini invoiced FIFA for the money at about the same time he had decided not to stand against Blatter in the elections for the Association’s presidency.
In the election he backed Blatter, but said the payment had nothing to do with his decision. Apart from this case, the Swiss attorney-general is also investigating the 2005 granting of an overly generous TV rights contract to Jack Warner, the president of Conacaf (Confederation of North Central American and Caribbean Association Football, now banned from football for life and indicted by the US for corruption.
US authorities have now indicted 27 current or former football officials including eight former FIFA executive committee members for corruption. The 24-member executive committee was responsible for taking the governing body’s decisions. Many have said that Blatter stayed as president for so long because he knew how to make allies of the representatives of the football associations which voted in the elections and the executive committee members which took the decisions.
From everything that has been reported it has become apparent that Blatter would do anything to hold on to his position, including turning a blind eye to corruption, if not actually encouraging it. Now he leaves in disgrace, forced out by the ethics committee of the world body he had ruled for 17 years. And FIFA under Blatter will be remembered as a den of corruption even though he was also responsible for turning it into a multi-billion dollar governing body that helped impoverished football associations and ensured ongoing development and expansion of football globally.
FIFA has paid some $2 billion in development funds that have improved football infrastructure in poor countries since Blatter took over in 1998 but, understandably, the Swiss will not receive much credit for this now.