ZURICH: Lawyers acting for Sepp Blatter veered close to an attempt to intimidate ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert last night with a combative statement which suggested even they were confused about the course of events writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Eckert is the Bavarian justice who must decide this morning on whether to validate a recommendation for suspension against both the FIFA president (and also for Michel Platini, the president of European governing body UEFA).
A joint statement from Lorenz Erni, Erni Brun, Forrer (Switzerland) and Richard Cullen, McGuireWoods LLP (Richmond, Virginia) said:
“President Blatter has not been notified of any action taken by the FIFA ethics committee. We would expect that the ethics committee would want to hear from the president and his counsel and conduct a thorough review ofthe evidence, before making any recommendation to take disciplinary action.”
The issue of notification is a technical issue since, until Eckert has made his decision and issued it to Blatter (and Platini) in a letter or by fax (under the Code of Ethics) there is nothing of which anyone should be notified.
However the suggestion that Blatter and his lawyers should appear before the ethics committee suggests either a misperception of the state of proceedings or an attempt to ‘put the squeeze’ on Eckert.
It is standard in many western European judicial cultures for individuals facing allegations to suspended – ‘relieved of their duties’ or ‘put on gardening leave’ – which the full nature of the accusations are examined.
A suspension is not viewed as a punishment but as a means of ensuring no conflicts of interest during the investigation, a method protecting both the accused and the accuser.
It would be expected that, were Blatter to be served with a ‘protective’ suspension then, and only then, could the “thorough review of the evidence” with full witness statements, be undertaken.
Only then would the possibility of disciplinary action come into play.
Disciplinary action is not yet under discussion and nor can it be until and unless Blatter were found guilty of any wrongdoing.
Mixing US and western European cultures can be a tricky business. FIFA knows that only too well after the fall-out a year ago between the German judge Eckert and Michael Garcia, the now-departed American head of the ethics committee’s investigatory chamber.