KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- FIFA’s ethics judge is being urged to impose a lifetime ban on Michel Platini, according to the attorney who led the investigation into allegations against the French president of European federation UEFA.
On Monday Hans-Joachim Eckert, the German judge who chairs the adjudicatory chamber of the world federation’s ethics committee, opened formal proceedings against both Platini and FIFA president Sepp Blatter after receiving the final report of investigations into misconduct in office.
Initial speculation suggested Platini and Blatter both risked of bans of between five and seven years.
However Platini’s lawyers have stated that Trinidadian lawyer Vanessa Allard, who led the investigation, has recommended a lifetime ban for the former France captain, manager and World Cup organiser.
Blatter and Platini are currently under provisional 90-day suspensions pending the resolution of the allegations against them. Both deny any wrongdoing. They can appear before Eckert to present both rebuttal and/or mitigation, while investigators can respond to these submissions.
At the end of last week reports “containing requests for sanctions,” according to an investigatory statement, were submitted to Eckert. He must decide, firstly, whether to accept the recommendations and if so, secondly, on punishment.
Lenthy bans would prevent Blatter presiding over the election next February 26 of his FIFA successor and dash Platini’s hopes of re-entering the campaign race.
Both men, if sanctioned, will have the option of appealing to FIFA’s own appeal panel and then the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Doubtless both would request a fast-track procedure and also for the imposition of sanctions to be suspended pending a decision by world sport’s supreme court.
Eckert ordered provisional 90-day suspensions of Blatter and Platini last month pending full investigations. Blatter was referred to the ethics committee after being placed under criminal investigation by the Swiss authorities over two issues.
The first concerned an under-valued sale of World Cup broadcasting rights in 2006 to Jack Warner, the then head of CONCACAF (the central and north American confederation), and the second the ‘disloyal payment’ to Platini of SFr2m in February 2011.
Platini was placed under a FIFA investigation for having accepted the ‘disloyal payment.’
Blatter and Platini have both claimed that the payment was to fulfil the terms of a verbal contract concerning work undertaken by the latter for FIFA between 1999 and 2002.
Both Blatter and Platini were members of the FIFA executive committee in 2011 when the payment was undertaken without the awareness of colleagues, raising concerns over both accountability and conflict of interest.
Platini’s lawyer, Thibaut d’Ales, complained: “The overreaching of the request really convinces us of this commission’s total lack of credibility. There is not a single tangible element in this case that can confirm the suspicions.”
Comparisons had been raised with the six-year and seven-year punishments meted out to Chilean Harold Mayne-Nicholls and South Chung Mong-joon over ethics code breaches arising out of the scandal-racked 2018-2022 World Cup bid process.
In both cases sanctions appeared partly to concern breaches of confidentiality by the two men during the ethics investigations.
Here neither Blatter nor Platini would have any defence: both they and their lawyers have railed angrily and publicly against their own original provisional suspensions and what they consider breach of process by Eckert and his ethics committee.
Eckert will have to weigh whether these complaints concerning his own oversight of the cases might render his continuation questionable if and when CAS considers the issues.
In the last two years life bans have been imposed on five members of the FIFA executive committee: Jack Warner, Chuck Blazer (United States), Mohammed Bin Hammam (Qatar), Vernon Manilal Fernando (Sri Lanka) and Jack Warner (Trinidad and Tobago).
Former exco members currently under suspension pending the outcome of the US authorities’ FIFAGate investigation include Jeffrey Webb (Cayman Islands), Eduardo Li (Costa Rica) and Eugenio Figueredo (Uruguay).