KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —-Domenico Scala, FIFA’s independent audit supremo, has blown a potentially fatal hole in the attempts by both Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini to justify a notorious ‘disloyal payment’ and escape significant punishment.

Swiss businessman Scala, in a lengthy interview with The Financial Times, has dismissed as “irrelevant” two of the excuses offered so far by Platini, the French president of European governing body UEFA and who still hopes to stand for the FIFA leadership next February.

Currently Platini and outgoing FIFA president Blatter are serving provisional 90-day suspensions by the ethics committee pending an inquiry into financial mismanagement. This means, in Platini’s case, the payment made in 2011 for work completed between 1999 and 2002.

Suspended presidents . . . Blatter and Platini

By the time the payment was made he was a member of Blatter’s FIFA executive committee. This, according to Scala, represented a conflict of interest if not “falsification of accounts.”

If the ethics investigation comes to the same conclusion then significant suspensions if not outright life bans might be imposed because of positions of trust which both men held at the time of the payment.

Missing reference

Asked to deliver his own opinion on the issue, Scala said: “Based on my knowledge, there was no written contract regulating the payment of SFr2m, which was paid in 2011. In any normal business, there would be a written contract.

“However, the main point is not whether a written contract exists or not. The key points are a conflict of interest and the non­accrual of the SFr2m in FIFA’s accounts.

“Both parties admit that there was an agreement about the SFr2m, but that amount was never recorded in FIFA’s accounts until the payment occurred. That is a serious omission, and both parties were members of FIFA’s executive committee and knowingly approved each year financial statements which were incorrect by SFr2m.

“That could be seen as falsification of the accounts.”

Scala was asked to take a view on possible explanation. His view matched that of most external observers that nothing Platini has said thus far has been plausible.

“I have only seen what has been in the media,” said Scala, adding: “One explanation I have seen is that FIFA was not in a [financially secure] position to pay. Another is that it was not paid at the time, because it would have been more than the secretary­general was paid.”

This found no favour with Scala.

He added, damningly: “Both explanations are irrelevant. What is overlooked is that both parties in that transaction were members of FIFA’s executive committee when that payment occurred. So both had a conflict of interest and should have recused themselves from that decision.”

Rotating presidency

Returning to the issue of FIFA reform, Scala raised the possibility of the presidency rotating between the confederations – similar to the European Union – and thus removing enormous power of patronage from one man.

He argued: “Why do we need to focus on one person who would lead FIFA for the next eight or 12 years, whatever the term limits are? Why not have a presidency which rotates every four years?

“Presidents could be nominated by the six confederations. Each confederation would have the right to have a president for, say, four years. Such as model is used in other institutions — the European Union, for example. It would, I think, address a number of governance issues. “This could also be considered a possibility for FIFA given that there is a very short list of candidates for the presidency.

“[Such a system] would diminish the power of an individual president [and] every system which diminishes the powers of individuals and creates checks and balances, reduces the risk of misconduct.”

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