Banned Sepp Blatter defiant: I will fight until the end
Kicked out over conflict of interest and disloyalty, the Fifa president and Uefa chief Michel Platini vow to appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport
Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were each banned for eight years by the Fifa ethics committee on Monday in a stunning removal of world soccer’s most powerful leaders.
Fifa president Blatter and Uefa chief Platini, who had previously been suspended, were kicked out of the sport for conflict of interest and disloyalty to Fifa in a US$2 million payment deal that is also the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland.
In a defiant news conference shortly after the verdict was announced, Blatter said he would challenge his ban at the Fifa appeal committee and then the Court of Arbitration for Sport, insisting he had done nothing wrong.
“I will fight,” said Blatter. “I will fight until the end.”
His last words after a spirited 52-minute performance holding court with international media were: “I’ll be back, thank you.”
Blatter’s trademark fighting talk was delivered while still sporting a strip of surgical tape on his right cheek after a minor medical procedure five days earlier.
Still, his Fifa career is ending in disgrace after more than 17 years as president and 40 years in total with the scandal-hit governing body.
Platini’s bid to succeed his former mentor in the February 26 presidential election is now likely over.
Platini, a Fifa vice-president and head of European governing body Uefa, said he would appeal over his ban, calling it a “true mockery”.
“The decision is no surprise to me: the procedure initiated against me by Fifa's ethics committee is a pure masquerade,” he said.
“It has been rigged to tarnish my name by bodies I know well and who for me are bereft of all credibility or legitimacy.”
Platini said his conscience was clear and that he would challenge the decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport and ultimately seek damages in civil proceedings. “I will fight this to the end,” he said.
The French Football Federation (FFF) maintained its support for Platini with FFF president Noel Le Graet saying that he had been saddened and shocked by the former France midfielder’s suspension.
“He will continue to fight,” Le Graet said. “His life has been dedicated to football. He has done great things for UEFA and I hope that his good faith will be recognised.
“It seems unbelievable, but it doesn't surprise me. The spokesperson of the Ethics Commission (Andreas Bantel) had already announced that Michel would be suspended for several years.”
Blatter made it clear he regretted his current position but declared he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
“I regret, but I am not ashamed,” he said. “I am sorry that I am a punching ball. I am sorry for football ... I am now suspended eight years, suspended eight years for what?”
Fifa’s ethics judges decided that Blatter and Platini broke ethics rules on conflicts of interest, breach of loyalty and offering or receiving gifts.
Platini took US$2 million of Fifa money in 2011 approved by Blatter as uncontracted salary for work as a presidential adviser from 1999-2002.
In Monday’s verdict, Blatter was fined 50,000 Swiss francs (HK$390,000) and Platini 80,000 Swiss francs.
“Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment,” the judges said. “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.
“His [Blatter’s] assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber.”
Blatter hit back at that conclusion during his news conference, portraying the ethics committee as saying of Platini and himself: “He’s a liar and I’m a liar.”
“This is not correct,” Blatter said.
“I’m sad. It can’t go on this way. It’s not possible. After 40 years, it can’t happen this way. I’m fighting to restore my rights.”
Blatter acknowledged an administrative “error” in failing to book Fifa’s debt to Platini in its accounts for eight years, though insisted: “This is nothing to do with the ethics regulations.”
Platini, the judges said, “failed to act with complete credibility and integrity, showing unawareness of the importance of his duties and concomitant obligations and responsibilities”.
Blatter, who turns 80 in March, said he wants to preside over the Fifa congress where his successor will be elected.
The 60-year-old Platini wants to clear his name, pass a Fifa integrity check and be declared an official candidate in the election he had been favoured to win.