Sepp Blatter and the longtime FIFA president’s one-time heir apparent Platini, have been banned from football for eight years, ending the career of the former and definitively derailing the vaulting ambitions of the latter.The Fifa ethics committee, chaired by the German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, has ruled that both men should be banned despite their protestations that they did nothing wrong when Blatter paid the Uefa president 2m Swiss francs in 2011, nine years after both men claimed it was originally due.
Fifa was thrown into crisis in May when Swiss police raided the five-star Baur Hotel and nine senior football officials were indicted in the US on charges including money laundering and racketeering. Last month, a further indictment followed against a further 16 individuals.Under huge pressure, Blatter agreed to stand down in June a few days after being re-elected for a fifth term as president. Platini quickly emerged as the favourite to succeed him, much to the public chagrin of his one-time mentor.
Blatter appeared personally before the ethics committee on Thursday, protesting his innocence in a letter to all 209 Fifa members in which he likened the process to the Spanish inquisition. Platini refused to appear in person, with his lawyers conducting the nine-hour hearing before Eckert and three other judges. But the Frenchman railed against the ethics committee’s provisional 90-day suspension and complained of ulterior political motives to force him out of the race to succeed Blatter.Neither man has been able to provide a written contract for the payment, however, or definitively explain away why it was eventually paid in 2011, a few weeks before the presidential election at a time when Blatter was facing a challenge from Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari who himself was ultimately banned over bribery claims. Blatter and Platini said the payment related to a period between 1998 and 2002 when the Frenchman acted as a special adviser to the Swiss. Platini has claimed Blatter told him at the time that Fifa could not afford to pay him, despite the governing body making €107m over that four-year cycle, and did not want to break its wage structure.