KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Michel Platini has followed the example of Sepp Blatter in defying the confidentiality constraints of the FIFA ethics system after the two presidents were suspended provisionally from all football activities.
Both the heads of European federation UEFA and the world governing body have been barred from the game pending the outcome of an investigation into financial mismanagement. In Platini’s case that concerns havng accepted in 2011 a ‘disloyal payment’ of SFr2m for work undertaken for FIFA nine years earlier.
Last week Blatter told a Swiss television channel that no contract had existed and the payment was made under a ‘gentleman’s agreement.’ The ethics committee made no response which Platini, presumably, took as a sign he could speak at length to the French daily Le Monde.
In the interview Platini offered yet another explanation about the controversial payment while confirming that no written agreement existed.
This revelation has already led England’s Football Association to withdraw support from Platini’s bid to succeed Blatter as FIFA president next February.
Asked about his FIFA intentions, Platini said it was a job he had always wanted, hence his lawyers were already preparing to challenge his suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
He said: “I was suspended for three months but what annoys me the most is to be put in the same bag as the others [presumably Blatter and similarly suspended secretary-general Jerome Valcke]. I find it shameful to be dragged through the mud.
“My lawyers are following FIFA procedures and will approach CAS if necessary. I hope that all this will proceed speedily. I don’t want to be in the position of Mohamed Bin Hammam who was suspended just before the elections in 2011 and cleared only after Blatter had been re-elected [Bin Hammam was later banned for life for misuse of Asian confederation funds].”
Platini conceded that the history of the infamous of the SFr2m payment appeared unorthodox. Originally he had blamed the payment delay on FIFA’s financial problems in 2002.
Now he said: “In 1998, I was president of the organizing committee of the World Cup in France when a new FIFA president was due to be elected. I was in Singapore and Blatter [then FIFA general secretary and a presidency candidate] asked me see his room.
“He immediately challenged me: ‘Are we going for it or not?’ He told me that [outgoing president] Joao Havelange had said: ‘Blatter and Platini as president and secretary-general is a very elegant solution.’ I was fully involved with the World Cup and said it did not interest me.
“So Blatter decides to stand himself but asked me to be his football consellor and asked how much I would want to be paid. I said: ‘A million.’ Blatter responded: ‘What?’ I said: ‘Roubles, pounds, dollars . . . remember this was before the euro.’ He said: “OK, one million Swiss francs per year.”
As for the contract, Platini insisted he had no lawyer or agent acting on his behalf at the time.
He said: “It was a man-to-man thing. He would become FIFA president. FIFA! I trusted him. In any case, I have since learned that under Swiss law a verbal contract is considered just like a written contract. Anyway, he was elected and I began to work in the September.”
Platini recalled that he developed the international calendar, the Goal development concept and accompanied Blatter on many of his travels.
As for the nine-year delay in being paid, he added: “I worked for several months with nothing to show for it. I asked Blatter: ‘Do you have a problem paying me?’ He said: ‘Yes, I cannot you pay one million because you cannot have more than three times the salary of the general secretry [then Michel Zen Ruffinen]. So we will you make a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs and we will give you the balance later. This is what happened.
“Only ‘later’ never came.”
Platini explained the failure to press for payment on ceasing his FIFA work in 2002 on his own carelessness about money. Even when ultimately he was asked to submit an invoice he forgot the precise sums due but was paid within 10 days.”
Platini confirmed that he and Blatter had been friends but relations became strained after he intimated that he wanted to stand for the FIFA presidency.
He reiterated his reasons for having voted for Qatar as 2022 World Cup host “because I wanted it to take place in the Gulf, an area where there is an extraordinary public football” and denied any link with his son, Laurent, later taking up an appointment with a Qatari subsidiary of the owners of Paris Saint-Germain.
As for FIFA’s future, Platini – who has never yet talked about his presidency campaign – said the organisation needed a change of culture “from the top” and warned: “If FIFA does not change itself, the FBI will enforce it.”