FIFA’s ethics committee on Monday banned suspended duo Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini from all soccer -elated activities for eight years each following an investigation into a $2 million payment that UEFA president Platini received from FIFA president Blatter in 2011. You can find the full transcript of its findings here.
Both men claim the verbal arrangement -- which is legal in Switzerland -- was struck in 1999 for work performed by Platini for Blatter as his personal soccer advisor (or something). Regardless of what you call it, the ethics committee did not find the agreement to be a bribe; nonetheless, the committee saw fit to suspend the pair for eight years because the agreement violated numerous parts of FIFA’s code of ethics.
For instance, the committee found that the payment, which was made some nine years after the work was actually completed, had “no legal basis,” while the explanation of an “oral agreement” over when it would be made was rejected as “not convincing.”
The committee also said that Blatter’s actions did not show “commitment to an ethical attitude” while Platini failed to act with “credibility and integrity” and showed “unawareness of the importance of his duties.” While there was “not sufficient evidence” to call the transaction a bribe, both men demonstrated an “abusive execution” of their positions.
Shortly before the punishments were made public, Blatter gave a press conference while Platini issued a statement in which both stated that they intend to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Blatter also indicated that he might take legal action under Swiss law, if necessary.
Meanwhile, the suspensions take place immediately.
During his one-hour press conference, a defiant Blatter appeared unshaven and with a crooked band-aid on his right cheek; he accused authorities in the United States for masterminding his downfall as well as that of several of his now-indicted colleagues, indicating that it was sour grapes for the World Cup in 2022 going to Qatar instead of the USA. “If we had awarded the World Cup in 2022 to the USA, we would not be here,” the Swiss said during a press conference described as “meandering” by the Associated Press.
The 79-year-old did not apologize for the payment in question, saying only: “I told [Platini] that that FIFA could not pay him all the money now. We will pay you a part of it later on…the debt existed.” He repeatedly said things like, “I will fight for me and for FIFA,” and “I am not ashamed. I regret, but I am not ashamed.” He finished the press conference with and Arnold Schwarzenegger-like, “I’ll be back.”
For his part, Platini said in a statement, “The decision is no surprise to me. The procedure initiated against me by Fifa's ethics committee is a pure masquerade. It has been rigged to tarnish my name by bodies I know well and who for me are bereft of all credibility or legitimacy."
Interestingly, UEFA, the European soccer governing body of which he has been president, issued a statement saying it was “extremely disappointed” with the decision, adding: "Once again, UEFA supports Michel Platini's right to a due process and the opportunity to clear his name."
So, there you have it. It looks as though we have not seen the last of the disgraced duo, as they attempt to go down fighting. Whether or not they have any legal basis for appealing to the CAS and/or Swiss authorities remains to be seen, but for now, anyway, they are no longer part of FIFA until further notice, which means change is afoot at soccer’s global governing body. Whether or not it is change for the better is also an open question.
Then again, could it get much worse?