Commentary

Will Platini join rogues gallery of disgraced confederation bosses?

Michel Platini, the former French great and current UEFA president, remains the favorite to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president despite being accused of accepting a $2 million "disloyal payment" from Blatter in 2011 for work deemed to have been done from January 1999 to June 2002, though key European backers have started to express concerns about the allegations.

Platini denies any wrongdoing, saying the nine-year delay between his work as a FIFA advisor and payment was because FIFA's financial situation meant he could not be paid in full when he was still working. (It's been noted, though, that FIFA reported a surplus of about $82 million for the period 1999-2002.) UEFA said Platini is simply a witness in the criminal investigation of Blatter, but Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber said on Tuesday Platini was being treated as "between a witness and an accused person" in the investigation into the $2 million payment.

Until now, Platini has largely been immune from the scandals that have rocked FIFA and the international game. He has admitted switching his vote from the USA to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup host country in 2010 after a meeting, hosted by then-France President Nicolas Sarkozy at his official residence in Paris and also attended by senior Qatari officials. He denied being bought by the Qataris after his son, Laurent, started working for Qatar Sports Investments, an arm of the Qatari government and owners of Paris St. Germain, as an attorney in November 2011.

Until now, Platini is unique among the six confederation presidents who were in power in the leadup to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes in December 2010 not to have been indicted, banned or reprimanded in the wake of corruption scandals -- and it's been so bad that two of their successors have been indicted.

The first to fall three weeks before the 2018 and 2022 votes were taken in Zurich was Tahitian Reynald Temarii. The president of Oceania's confederation was suspended for one year for breaching FIFA's loyalty and confidentiality rules when he was secretly filmed in a sting by undercover reporters from the Sunday Times who posed as American lobbyists trying to buy votes for the 2022 World Cup bid. Temarii asked for $2.3 million to fund a soccer academy in New Zealand. In 2015, he was banned from soccer for eight years for taking $300,000 for Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian confederation, to pay legal costs in the Sunday Times case.

In June 2011, Jack Warner, a member of the FIFA executive committee since 1983 and Concacaf president since 1990, quit after FIFA's ethics committee began proceedings against him on at least three separate corruption and bribery charges. The charges related to a meeting of Caribbean Football Union members he organized in Trinidad for them to meet bin Hammam, who was running for FIFA president against Sepp Blatter. It was revealed brown envelopes containing $40,000 were offered to the CFU members. On May 27, Warner was one of 14 individuals indicted in a Federal probe into soccer corruption but is fighting extradition to the United States. On Tuesday, FIFA finally got around to banning Warner -- also linked to Blatter in the Swiss criminal investigation -- for life from all soccer activities.

Bin Hammam's presidential ambitions were derailed when he was banned for life from all soccer activities by the FIFA ethics committee that investigated the CFU scandal. The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the ban in 2012, but Bin Hammam was provisionally suspended over allegations of financial mismanagement while serving AFC president, basically co-mingling AFC and personal business accounts to dole out tens of thousands of dollars to curry support in Africa and Asia for Qatar's World Cup bid and his FIFA presidential ambitions. Bin Hammam later quit all soccer activities and was banned for life by FIFA.

In April 2013, Nicolas Leoz quit, saying heart problems made it impossible for him to travel and fulfill his FIFA duties and those as president of Conmebol, a post he has held since 1986. Leoz, who is now 87 and resides in his native Paraguay, was also indicted by Federal authorities in May and is accused of being one of the ringleaders in a bribery scheme involving Traffic and other South American sports agencies and going back more than two decades. He, too, is fighting extradition.

The successors to both Warner and Leoz, Jeffrey Webb at Concacaf and Eugenio Figueredo at Conmebol, were also both indicted and arrested in Zurich. Webb, accused of widespread bribery after taking replacing Warner, is under house arrest at his home outside Atlanta, while Figueredo, liked in the Traffic bribery schemes and also accused of faking dementia so he won't have to take U.S. citizen tests, remains in jail in Zurich, though Swiss authorities have agreed to turn him over to the United States.

That leaves Platini and African confederation president Issa Hayatou as the only confederation bosses still in power. But the 69-year-old Hayatou, who would replace Blatter as interim president if he stepped down, has not escaped unscathed. In 2011, Hayatou was reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee, of which he is a member, for receiving payments from FIFA's former marketing agency, ISL. The BBC show Panorama in November 2010 had accused Hayatou of receiving 100,000 Swiss francs ($106,000) in cash for ISL in 1995. Also implicated in the ISL scandal were former FIFA president Joao Havelange, his former son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, the former Brazilian soccer chief, and Leoz.

Hayatou, CAF president since 1988, was also linked to charges of bribery related to the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Former Qatari bid committee staffer Phaedra Almajid said she attended a meeting in 2010 at which Hayatou and two other FIFA executive committee members Jacques Anouma and Amos Adamu (later suspended in the wake of the Sunday Times sting) were offered $1.5 million to vote for Qatar. She later retracted the claims, saying she had fabricated them in order to get revenge on her Qatari bosses after losing her job, but she has since said she was coerced into making the retraction and reiterated her charges.

Blatter has tried to shift blame for soccer's widespread corruption problems on FIFA's six confederations. To an extent, Blatter has a point. The widespread corruption among soccer's confederations presidents is no coincidence. The power they hold sitting on FIFA's executive committee and controlling votes -- Hayatou's African confederation was able to keep Blatter in power in the most recent election because its 54 members voted as a bloc -- has made them prime targets in bribery schemes related to marketing rights, World Cup hosting bids and FIFA elections.

It should be added that they have been all too willing participants abusing their positions to amass enormous wealth

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3 comments about "Will Platini join rogues gallery of disgraced confederation bosses?".
  1. Nate Nelson, September 30, 2015 at 10:38 p.m.

    Platini's time is coming, but when will Chuck Blazer's American cohorts from theUSSF get the knock on their door..Remember I said when ...not if

  2. Santiago 1314, October 1, 2015 at 11:23 a.m.

    I'm still hoping it's the USSF that is Feeding all this info to the Feds...Hoping!!!!

  3. King Kong, October 2, 2015 at 10:32 p.m.

    Platini is not suitable to be the head of FIFA because he promised the heads of Qatar to change to a winter tournament before the bidding process of a summer tournament.

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