Football

Blatter and Platini vow to appeal eight-year bans

Stunned Swiss vows to fight ban, Platini to appeal too

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were banned yesterday for eight years from all football activities for abusing their positions as the two most powerful men in the sport.

The bans were imposed by Fifa's ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert for a "disloyal payment" of two million Swiss francs ($2.85m) made to Platini in 2011, signed off by Blatter, for work the Frenchman had undertaken between 1998 and 2002 as a presidential adviser.

Blatter, 79, has also been fined 50,000 Swiss francs and Platini 80,000 Swiss francs by the adjudicatory chamber of Fifa's ethics committee after being found guilty of ethics code breaches.

The charges found proven included offering and accepting gifts, conflict of interest, and violating their fiduciary duty to Fifa.

A statement from the ethics committee said: "Mr Blatter's actions did not show commitment to an ethical attitude, failing to respect all applicable laws and regulations as well as Fifa's regulatory framework to the extent applicable to him and demonstrating an abusive execution of his position as president of Fifa, hence violating article 13 of the FCE (general rules of conduct)."

It added: "Mr Platini failed to act with complete credibility and integrity, showing unawareness of the importance of his duties and concomitant obligations and responsibilities.

"His actions did not show commitment to an ethical attitude, failing to respect all applicable laws and regulations as well as Fifa's regulatory framework to the extent applicable to him and demonstrating an abusive execution of his position as vice-president of Fifa and member of the Fifa executive committee."

Blatter held a news conference in Zurich yesterday shortly after the announcement and has vowed to fight the ban.

ASTONISHED

Unshaven and with a plaster bandage on his cheek, Blatter said he was "astonished" judges had rejected evidence in his defence.

"You ask me if I feel betrayed... the answer is yes," he said.

"I will fight. I will fight for me and I will fight for Fifa. I am suspended eight years - for what?"

Blatter said he had a "gentleman's agreement" with Platini and continued to insist he has done nothing wrong. He confirmed he will appeal against the sanction, with his next step likely to be the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"To say that it's a good day for me or for Fifa would be totally wrong," said Blatter, who revealed that he found out about his ban only after the news was broken by the media.

"Let us say that I'm really sorry, I'm sorry that I am still somewhere a punching ball, I'm sorry that I am as president of Fifa this punching ball.

"And I'm sorry for football, that I'm serving for 40 years. Sorry for the 400 plus Fifa team members. But I'm also sorry for me.

"I am also sorry about me and about how I am treated in this world of humanitarian qualities.

"Human beings need to be respected. It has created a lot of collateral damage in the families. My family was mocked. I regret I am this punching bag."

On the hearing from last week, Blatter added: "Together with (my) Swiss lawyer, we thought that we had convinced the panel of the tribunal... about this situation.

"We are in a so-called oral contract or gentleman's agreement. This agreement was made in 1998, in France, just after the World Cup. Where Mr Platini said he would like to work for Fifa, I said it was wonderful. He said he wanted one million Swiss francs. I said OK, we can pay you part now, part later.

"What astonishes me now about the decision of the Fifa ethics committee is that they deny, they deny the existence of such an agreement."

Blatter, who is expected to be allowed to stay in the luxurious apartment provided by Fifa until the appeals process is exhausted, said he had been betrayed by the people he appointed to the ethics committee, and his final words to the press conference were: "I am still the president. I'll be back."

Platini had been the favourite to succeed Blatter as Fifa's president, but his chances of winning have almost certainly been crushed by yesterday's announcement.

He 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..

He 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."

- Wire Services.

"You ask me if I feel betrayed... the answer is yes."

- Sepp Blatter

From showy to shamed

On the football field and in the exercise of my mandates, my behaviour has always been irreproachable and I am at ease with my conscience. - Michel Platini

Making the right pass at a crucial moment made Michel Platini one of the world's greatest footballers, but poor timing has cost him his place as one of the most powerful men in sport.

The 60-year-old Frenchman - banned for eight years yesterday - regularly battled back from injury and other blows to star in some of football's most dramatic moments as a player.

Escaping Fifa's corruption turmoil has been a trick too far. The time between his work as an adviser to Fifa president Sepp Blatter between 1999 and 2002 and a two million Swiss francs ($2.85m) payment he received in 2011 was not great tactics.

A Fifa court said yesterday that the reason for the payment stretched credibility.

The grandson of Italian migrants, Platini was born and brought up in the small steel town of Joeuf in eastern France. His father Aldo was a local maths teacher and football coach.

The young Michel quickly showed a gift with the ball. But French football nearly missed out on his talents.

He missed one trial with local heavyweights Metz because of injury.

For the second, he failed a medical test because of the club's fears about his heart.

Eventually, Nancy signed him and the rest is football history.

Platini won the French Cup with Nancy, a league title with Saint-Etienne and was lured to Juventus in 1982. In Turin, the genius playmaker won two Serie A titles and a European Cup.

The passes were always inch-perfect and for a time, Platini was one of the greatest players in the world.

He won the 1984 European Championship with France and the Ballon d'Or in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

His retirement at the age of 32 came as a shock. But, a year later, Platini had already started a four-year stint as France's national coach.

The team crashed out of the 1992 European Championship in the first round and he resigned.

Platini remained a legend, however, and he then turned his hand to football administration.

He was co-chairman of the 1998 World Cup organising committee in France and significantly supported Sepp Blatter's bid to take over the Fifa presidency in 1998.

Platini became vice-president of the French Football Federation in 2001 and scored his first major political victory when he took charge of Uefa in 2007 - shoving out long-time leader Lennart Johansson in the first round of voting.

For years, he seemed Blatter's anointed successor. Chung Mong Joon, the South Korean tycoon and former Fifa vice-president, said there was a "father and son" relationship between the two.

The distance between them grew as scandal engulfed Fifa under Blatter's imperial rule.

But, for three years from 1999, Platini was an adviser to the world football leader. Their version is that they reached an oral agreement on the salary of one million Swiss francs a year, which was not all paid at the time.

Fifa knew nothing about the deal, however, and Swiss prosecutors deemed a two million Swiss franc transfer in 2011 to be a "disloyal payment".

SUCCESS STORIES

Under Platini, Uefa's wealth has grown exponentially. The Champions League is one of the world's top sporting brands. The European Championship in France next year will feature 24 countries for the first time.

But the Frenchman faces other uncomfortable questions, including his vote for Qatar when the Gulf state secured the 2022 World Cup five years ago. Platini said he wanted to show that his horizons were not limited to Europe.

"I have no regrets at all. I think it was the right choice for Fifa and world football," he told L'Equipe newspaper last year.

Platini has denied he was influenced by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy or the fact that his son Laurent works for a Qatar-owned sports clothing company.

He also courted controversy over his refusal to hand back a watch worth more than US$25,000 ($35,300) that was presented to him by the Brazilian Football Confederation at last year's World Cup.

"I'm a well-educated person. I don't return gifts," said Platini, after Fifa called for all watches given to executive members to be handed back over a breach of ethics rules.

- AFP.

"On the football field and in the exercise of my mandates, my behaviour has always been irreproachable and I am at ease with my conscience."

- Michel Platini

The 'disloyal payment'

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini met their downfall with a mysterious two million Swiss francs ($2.85m) transfer in 2011 from the Fifa president to the Frenchman.

Swiss prosecutors say it was a "disloyal payment" and have placed Blatter under investigation.

Unless he and his ally-turned-arch-rival Platini make successful appeals, the cash has destroyed two glittering sporting careers.

Blatter has said that from 1999 - after he had secured the Fifa presidency until 2002 - Platini was a consultant to the world body.

Platini told Le Monde about his talks with Blatter.

"How much do you want? I answered, 'one million'. In what? Whatever you want - rubles, pounds, dollars," Platini quoted Blatter as saying. "At this time, there was not yet the euro. He (Blatter) answered, 'OK one million Swiss francs a year'."

Platini told AFP in September that Blatter had informed him "that it was not initially possible to pay the totality of my salary because of Fifa's financial situation at that time".

He added: "I did not actively pursue it. I even put the matter to the side for a while, before finally requesting that the outstanding balance was paid in 2011."

The money was finally paid a few weeks before Blatter was re-elected to a fourth term in 2011.

Platini backed Blatter, who had faced opposition, at the election on the understanding it would be his last term. Platini has said the fact the payment was made close to the election is "irrelevant".

Blatter and Platini have each said there was an oral contract for the payment and insist this is legal under Swiss law and Fifa regulations.

This was rejected by the Fifa ethics court in their ruling yesterday.

- AFP.

fifaSepp Blattermichel platiniban