The suspended duo of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini will find out within days whether they would face lengthy ban from global football or not after FIFA’s ethics committee concluded investigations into their case.
The investigatory arm of the committee confirmed last weekend that it had finished its probe and recommended sanctions to the adjudicatory arm chaired by the German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert.
Last week, the suspended FIFA president and his UEFA counterpart lost appeals over their provisional suspensions and plan to take their cases to the court of arbitration for sport.
It was learnt that Eckert will summon Blatter and Platini to a formal hearing within days, at which point they will be notified of the case against them and the proposed sanctions.
The investigatory arm is believed to be seeking to ban them for several years over what Swiss law terms a “disloyal payment” of £1.35m made by Blatter to Platini in 2011, weeks before the former was re-elected as FIFA’s president. The payment dated back to the period between 1998 and 2002 when Platini was a special adviser to Blatter. He was paid £203,465 a year but both men argued that they had a gentleman’s agreement that Platini would get the extra cash at a later date.
Platini claimed that Blatter told him FIFA could not afford to pay him at the time, despite it making a profit of £78m over that four-year cycle, and didn’t want to break its wage structure.
Both have acknowledged that there was no written contract but said they believed their verbal contract was legal under Swiss law. However, Swiss law places a five-year time limit on such payments. The fact that the payments did not feature in FIFA’s accounts is believed to form part of the case against them. The charges are based on four potential breaches: mismanagement, conflict of interest, false accounting and noncooperation with the ethics committee.
The case came to light in September when the Swiss Attorney General’s office launched a criminal investigation against Blatter and questioned Platini as someone between a witness and an accused person over the affair.
Cornel Borbely, the head of the investigatory arm of the ethics committee, has stepped aside from the case to avoid any perception of conflict of interest given that he and Blatter are both Swiss.
When Blatter and Platini, who have both denied wrongdoing, are notified of the charges and proposed sanctions they will be entitled to a personal hearing before Eckert. That is expected to take place next month, giving rise to the prospect that both could be banned before Christmas.
That would definitively remove Platini from the race to succeed Blatter. It would also put paid to any hope for Blatter of taking on an honorary role. In a documentary due to be broadcast on Channel Five on Monday, Blatter’s adviser Klaus Stoehlker floats the idea that he could become honorary president, as João Havelange was before him.
“I think the possibility was discussed and still is in discussion – it’s depending on the structure which follows February 26th next year. I think the position of honorary president is what is accepted by him,” he told the programme.
“I think as an honorary president you are something like [a] godfather, but he’s clever enough and intelligent enough to let his follower go ahead and run Fifa.”
In the programme, in which the former England international Sol Campbell calls for Fifa to be disbanded altogether, Stoehlker also confirms that Blatter has recovered from his recent health scare.
“It was a nervous breakdown, and at a private location and it was not football which made this … and so he went into hospital [and] the doctors advised him to have a check-up and I visited him soon after, but he is fine now.”
By Olisemeka Obeche (with agency reports)