In Brief

Michel Platini will resign at Uefa's next congress

Former player 'deeply disappointed' as he fails to overturn 'disloyal payment' punishment

Uefa president Michel Platini has quit the organisation after failing to overturn his ban from football, which was imposed by Fifa last year.

Platini had appealed to the court of arbitration for sport (CAS) after he and former Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, were found guilty of breaches in ethics over a "disloyal payment" of £1.25m in 2011.

He was originally banned for eight years, which was later overturned on appeal to six years. However, he had hoped to have the punishment overturned by the CAS.

Instead, the court reduced the ban by a further two years to four, a decision that has "effectively removed Platini from world football by ensuring his ban runs beyond his current Uefa mandate, which expires in March 2019," says the Daily Telegraph.

Platini and Blatter claimed the payment was for consultancy work and had been agreed in 1998. However, the CAS said it "was not convinced by the legitimacy of the payment".

"It found his dealings with Blatter had breached the ethics code of world governing body Fifa and while his six-year ban was 'too severe', it decided a four-year punishment should be handed down - the equivalent to a presidential term in office," reports the BBC.

Lawyers for the former France midfielder said he was "deeply disappointed" by the decision and considered it "an injustice". He would "resign as president of Uefa at the organisation's next congress", they added.

The hunt is now on for a replacement. "An election is likely in mid-September at meetings of European soccer leaders in Athens, Greece," says The Guardian

Blatter and Platini could be back for 2022 Qatar World Cup 

25 February

Fifa has rejected appeals from outgoing president Sepp Blatter and his Uefa counterpart, Michel Platini, over their lengthy bans from all football-related activities.

However, the appeal committee reduced the pair's suspension from eight years to six after it "decided that their work in football 'should deserve appropriate recognition', and denied an attempt by Fifa ethics prosecutors to have the pair banned for life," Sky Sports reports.

The two men were suspended in December over a £1.3m "disloyal payment" in 2011.

Yesterday's decision came less than 48 hours before a crucial vote on who should replace Blatter as president of Fifa.

"Both men had hoped to play large roles on Friday - with Blatter taking a valedictory lap and Platini running for his job," the Wall Street Journal says. "But under the terms of the suspension, neither is even allowed to enter the building."

Platini, a three-time European Footballer of the Year, had been tipped as a future leader of the sport's world-governing body. He was scathing in his reaction to the decision, claiming to have been the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy within the game.

"It is an insulting decision, shameful and a denial of rights," he said in a statement. "I am the victim of a system which has only one main objective: to prevent me presenting myself for the Fifa presidency in order to protect certain interests that I was about to question."

According to Sky, Blatter now intends to take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Platini is expected to follow suit.

The investigatory chamber of Fifa's ethics committee could also appeal against the decision to reduce the bans, reports the Daily Telegraph. It could ask the court to increase the punishment and impose life bans on the two men.

"If it decides not to, Blatter and Platini's bans would expire in time for the 2022 World Cup, which is ironic considering the award of the tournament to the Gulf state is widely regarded as having triggered their downfall," notes the paper.

Fifa sacks general secretary Jerome Valcke

13 January

Jerome Valcke, the suspended secretary general of Fifa and former right-hand man of its president Sepp Blatter, has been sacked by football's governing body.

In a statement, Fifa said he had been dismissed as general secretary with "immediate effect" and added: "The employment relationship between Fifa and Jerome Valcke has also been terminated."

The 55-year-old Frenchman was suspended from his position in September over a series of alleged breaches, including claims he planned to profit from World Cup ticket sales.

He is facing a nine-year ban from football and a £67,500 fine after an investigation by Fifa's ethics committee.

The allegations, however, have been "been dwarfed by the pandemonium which has engulfed Fifa over the past year, with criminal investigations into the sport taking place in both the United States and Switzerland", says The Times.

The newspaper notes that Valcke was "one of the most powerful figures at Fifa... responsible for ensuring that preparations for the World Cups in South Africa and Brazil were completed on time".

The claims relate to his activities in that role.

Valcke, like Blatter, denies wrongdoing.

This is not the first time he has fallen foul of Fifa's rules. "It is the second time Valcke has been dismissed by Fifa," notes The Guardian. He was previously fired from his role as marketing director over a sponsorship row with credit card firms that ended with Fifa being forced to pay more than £60m to MasterCard.

In 2006, a New York judge said Valcke had "lied repeatedly" to potential sponsors, adds the paper. It reports that, according to one of the lawyers in the case, the former official came out with "white lies, commercial lies, bluffs, pure lies, straight untruths and perjury, Mr Valcke even lied when testifying about his lies".

"Blatter re-hired him eight months later", adds the Guardian.

Platini withdraws from Fifa race in bid to clear his name

 

08 January

Michel Platini has formally withdrawn from the Fifa presidential election next month and in doing so the suspended Uefa president fired a bitter broadside at football's governing body.

Last month Platini, along with Fifa president Sepp Blatter, was banned for eight years from football-related activities after being found guilty of irregularities concerning a£1.3m ($2m) "disloyal payment", which the Frenchman received in 2011.

The pair are appealing against the punishment - the 79-year-old Blatter likened Fifa's investigation into the payment to "the Inquisition" - and it had been Platini's intention to remain in contention to replace Blatter as Fifa president.

But with the elections to be held on 26 February he announced on Thursday evening that it would be impossible for him to stand while also appealing. "I'm withdrawing from the race for the Fifa presidency," the 60-year-old Platini said. "The timing is not good for me. I don't have the means to fight on equal terms with the other candidates. I have not been given the chance to play the game. Bye bye Fifa, bye bye Fifa presidency."

Platini, who has been president of Uefa, European football's governing body, for nine years, will take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but the process has clearly worn down the three time winner of the Ballon d'Or.

"I've spent more time in hearing rooms than on football pitches speaking about 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 or football news," he complained. "I'm taking this philosophically. Let's wait and see what happens. But injustice is revolting me and I'm trying to fight it."

Platini reiterated that he had done nothing wrong in his view, and instead alluded to a Fifa plot to keep Uefa from taking control of the organisation. "They are making me pay for being Uefa president, I think the Zurich administration does not wish someone from Uefa to head Fifa," he said. "Because we are beautiful, we are big, we are rich, and we are the strongest."

And 'beautiful' was also the adjective Platini used to describe Blatter, a man with whom he hasn't always seen eye to eye in recent years. "He is a great personality," said the Frenchman, "He has done many beautiful things in football. He also did bad things, certainly [but] I've supported him, I worked with him."

According to The Guardian, Platini's withdrawal means the Asian football president, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, is the new favourite to lead Fifa, though Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan is also a strong candidate for the position.

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini come out fighting after Fifa ban

21 December

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has come out fighting after he and Michel Platini, the head of Uefa, were handed eight-year bans from football after an ethics investigation.

The pair were found guilty of abusing their position in relation to a "disloyal payment" of £1.3m made to Platini in 2011.

But at a press conference called by Blatter he denied any wrongdoing and said he had become a "punching ball" for Fifa. Blatter and Platini have claimed that the payment, made on the eve of the Fifa presidential election in which Platini did not stand, was for work done by the Frenchman a decade earlier. 

Blatter said they had a verbal agreement to make the payment, although no paperwork has been found and the transaction did not appear in Fifa's accounts.

"The outgoing Fifa president used the word 'sorry' on several occasions during a typically bizarre, delusional press conference, without appearing to apologise for anything," reports The Times.

The Swiss invoked Nelson Mandela as he addressed the media and insisted that he remained head of Fifa and would appeal against the decision and go to the court of arbitration in sport. Platini also announced that he too would appeal.

"I'm really sorry. I'm sorry that I am still somewhere a punching ball," said Blatter. "As president of Fifa, I'm still this punching ball. I'm sorry for Fifa. I'm sorry for football. I'm also sorry about me. How I am treated in this world."

But despite his bullish reaction to the ban it seems unlikely that there will be any way back for Blatter.

"Since being levered into position by the late Adidas executive Horst Dassler and Joao Havelange, his predecessor as president, Blatter survived a series of scandals and corruption storms," notes The Guardian. "But, barring a successful appeal to the court of arbitration for sport, his long career in football is now over.

"Platini's fall from grace has been swifter still... the former world footballer of the year, who expected to attend this summer's European Championship in France as Fifa president, now faces being cast from the sport that made him at the age of 60."

Fifa President Blatter likens investigation to 'Inquisition'

16 December

Suspended Fifa president Sepp Blatter has likened the investigation into his leadership of football's governing body to "the Inquisition" in a letter written to all of the 209 national football associations affiliated with the organisation.

Blatter and suspended Uefa head Michel Platini both face personal hearings this week over allegations that the long-term head of Fifa made a corrupt payment of around £1.35m to the former France international.

The pair both claim that the payment, made in 2011, was made for work done by Platini for Fifa around the turn of the century, which wasn't paid at the time due to the organisation's financial situation.

The 79-year-old Swiss said in his letter that Fifa's ethics committee had "demanded the maximum penalty and reinforced public pre-judgement". He said that he was "bewildered" by their decision-making and that it had made people prejudiced against him and Platini.

"These proceedings remind me of the Inquisition," he added, prompting a number of mocking references to the famous 'Spanish Inquisition' Monty Python sketch on social media.

ESPN FC reports that while it's possible that the pair could receive lifetime bans from the organisation, it's more widely expected that there won't be enough to find either of them guilty of corruption outright - leaving them facing the lesser offences of 'conflict of interest', which could still lead to a lengthy ban. A decision is expected early next week.

Separately, Blatter has also told Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo that he's looking forward to handing the 2015 Ballon d'Or to one of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar. The ceremony takes place on January 11, six days after his provisional 90-day Fifa ban expires on 5 January.

Meanwhile, Fifa vice-president and head of South American federation Conmebol, Juan Angel Napout, has pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in New York, after the Paraguayan was extradited to the US having been detained in Zurich earlier in December and accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes.

Fifa corruption probe: FBI investigates Blatter's role in scandal

07 December

The FBI is investigating the role suspended Fifa President Sepp Blatter played in a $100m bribery scandal, a BBC investigation has revealed.

The BBC's Panorama has seen a letter obtained by the FBI, which says Blatter was aware of the bribes paid to sports marketing company ISL, despite having denied all knowledge of the affair.

ISL paid over $100m to leading Fifa officials including former president Joao Havelange and former executive Ricardo Teixeira in return for lucrative marketing rights during the 1990s, says the report.

The letter, allegedly written by Havelange appeared to implicate his successor by saying Blatter "had full knowledge of all activities and was always apprised of them".

It was apparently forwarded to the Swiss authorities along with a request for help before the scandal at football's world governing body erupted in May.

Blatter, who is due to stand down as Fifa president in February next year, declined to comment on the latest of wave of allegations in the ongoing corruption saga.

The 79-year-old embattled football chief was suspended for 90-days by the scandal-hit organisation last month.

The BBC programme, due to be aired tonight, also reveals that Qatar spent over £117m in its bid to host the World Cup in 2022, six times the investment made by England.

Former footballer Gary Lineker, who supported England's 2018 World Cup bid, told Panorama that he felt "nauseous" at the levels of corruption in the sport.

"Part of me hopes that with everything being so clearly rotten, we can come out and somehow start again and, and correct it."

Panorama: Fifa, Sepp Blatter and Me is on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday, 7 December.

Another dawn raid and more arrests in Fifa corruption probe

3 December

A cynic might suggest it was business as usual for Fifa on Thursday morning as police swooped on the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich and arrested two senior officials, this time on suspicion of accepting bribes worth millions of dollars.

Seven months after Fifa's house of cards was brought down with a series of raids at the same hotel, the Swiss and US authorities continue with their investigations into corruption within football's governing body.

The two men to be arrested this time are Fifa vice-presidents Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay.

Hawit was appointed head of Concacaf, which governs the Caribbean and Central America, after the previous president, Jeffrey Webb, was arrested in May. Napout is the president of Conmebol, the confederation which runs the game in South America.

The arrests were requested by the US and a statement from the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said the pair are being held in custody pending their extradition.

"According to the US arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars," it said. "The high-ranking Fifa officials are alleged to have taken the money in return for selling marketing rights in connection with football tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches."

The news is an added distraction for Fifa, which is now "effectively... being run by its lawyers", according to Richard Conway of the BBC.

President Sepp Blatter and his right-hand man Jerome Valcke were suspended in October over various different claims, along with the man expected to replace Blatter, Michel Platini. Blatter and Platini could find themselves banned from football for life.

Fifa will hold a news conference later and Conway says there will be "an emphasis to say Fifa are a victim in this - that they are the victims of actions by individuals and that Fifa are suffering as a result".

The latest arrests cap a bad week for the organisation, reports The Guardian: "On Wednesday, Fifa announced a £67m financial loss, its first since 2001, after a year of sponsorship losses and heavy legal bills.

"On Tuesday, five major sponsors – Adidas, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Visa and Anheuser-Busch – had written to Fifa demanding independent oversight of the reform process."

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