KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Lawyers for Sepp Blatter raged at the conduct of the ethics committee after FIFA’s own process brought an ignominious end, apparently, to his 40-year career in world football.
Blatter was suspended today for 90 days by the FIFA ethics judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert. The suspension is protective rather than punitive, to be served while the ethics chamber undertakes a full examination of the allegations through which the 79-year-old Swiss became subject to a criminal investigation.
One issue concerns the miss-selling of a TV rights package, the other a ‘disloyal payment’ to Michel Platini, the French president of UEFA.
Blatter can appeal to the FIFA appeals committee and, if rejected, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. All of these procedures take time. His legal team, a mixture of Swiss and United States lawyers, may seek to have the suspension set aside in the meantime.
However, the storm of international anger which has swamped FIFA over the last scandal-shrouded years would be as nothing compared with the opprobrium certain if Blatter, utterly discredited, sought to stay at the helm.
Already four of the World Cup’s sponsors have demanded that he step down and it would be difficult for other sponsors, including most notably long-term partner Adidas, to refuse to follow suit – for the sake of their own image and credibility if nothing else.
His lawyers, meanwhile, issued a statement of righteous indignation at the humiliation heaped upon the man who was general secretary before acceding to the presidency in 1998 in succession to Brazilian Joao Havelange.
A statement said:
President Blatter was disappointed that the ethics committee did not follow the Code of Ethics and Disciplinary Code, both of which provide for an opportunity to be heard.
Further, the ethics committee based its decision on a misunderstanding of the actions of the Attornet-General in Switzerlkand which has open an investigation but brought no charge against the president.
In fact, the prosecutors will be obliged, by law, to dismiss the case if their investigation, barely two weeks old, does not establish sufficient evidence.
President Blatter looks forward to the opportunity to present evidence that will demonstrate that he did not engage in any misconduct, criminal or otherwise.