LONDON: Michel Platini’s prospects of securing the FIFA presidency dipped further over the world football horizon after England scrapped its previous offer of support writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Other federations are likely to follow suit now that the Football Association has evaluated information presented to UEFA yesterday by lawyers for the suspended French president of the European governing body.
An emergency meeting of all European national associations leaders at UEFA headquarters in Nyon yesterday were presented with an explanation for the infamous rogue payment in 2011 to Platini of 2m Swiss francs from FIFA authorised by its own president Sepp Blatter.
Platini has been unable to offer a plausible explanation for a nine-year delay in the payment he was due for work he undertook for FIFA in 1999-2002.
His lawyer’s explanation was delivered under conditions of confidentaility imposed by the rules of the FIFA ethics committee which suspended Platini for 90 days last week pending a full investigation.
However, what FA vice-chairman David Gill learned was enough to persuade the FA that Platini is no longer a credible candidate for the leadership of the world game – as it has originally believed.
An FA statement said:
“The FA supports the statement issued by UEFA on Thursday 15 October concerning the ethics case against Michel Platini.
“This statement expressed respect for the significant work performed by Mr Platini at UEFA, requested that he be afforded due process in contesting the charges, and encouraged the relevant bodies involved to reach a final decision on the merits of the case by mid-November.
“The FA wishes Mr Platini every success in fighting these charges and clearing his name, and has no interest in taking any action that jeopardises this process.
“However, notwithstanding the above, at the UEFA meeting on Thursday, the FA learnt more information relating to the issues at the centre of this case from Mr Platini’s lawyers.
“We have been instructed that the information must be kept confidential and therefore we cannot go into specifics.
“As a result of learning this information, the FA board has on Friday morning concluded that it must suspend its support for Mr Platini’s candidature for the FIFA Presidency until the legal process has been concluded and the position is clear.
“A decision can then be taken on who to support in the presidential election on 26 February 2016.”
UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said yesterday that the organisation hoped Platini’s appeals could be processed by FIFA and, if necessary, by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, by mid-November. This appeared highly optimistic given the fact that the substantive investigation into the payment is likely to take far longer.
In any case, this would be beyond the deadline for contenders for the FIFA presidency to submit candidatures. Platini has submitted the necessary paperwork but can hardly expect to pass the essential ‘fit and proper person’ test while still undergoing a quasi-legal process.
UEFA delegates to FIFA’s executive committee meeting next Tuesday are expected to discuss who to propose as an alternative European candidate. An early favourite is Dutch KNVB chairman Michael Van Praag, who ran unsuccessfully against Blatter early this year.
Prince Ali of Jordan, whom Europe supporter against Blatter last May, has submitting his candidature. Asian confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale are other likely contenders.