KEIR RADNEDGE in PARIS: UEFA is starting to shift the pieces on the political chessboard in case suspended president Michel Platini is forced to succumb to checkmate over allegations of misconduct in office.

Platini, French president of the European federation, risks a long-term ban from all football within the next 10 days from the ethics committee of world governing body FIFA. He has failed to overturn a provisional suspension before the FIFA appeals panel and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said in Paris, after a UEFA executive committee meeting, that its members remained unanimous in support of Platini’s right to continue fighting to clear his name. Simultaneously, however, the UEFA exco set the parameters in case a new president is needed in time for the European Championship finals in France in June.

Hence an extraordinary congress will be held on February 25, on the eve of the election to choose a new FIFA president in succession to similarly-banned Sepp Blatter. The ordinary congress, set for March in Budapest, has been postponed until May 3, also in the Hungarian capital.

The timing is significant. By delaying the ordinary congress UEFA can ensure all its statutes and agenda are in legal order if a presidential election is necessary on May 3.

Platini hopes to clear his name in time to stand in the FIFA election and Infantino is a stand-in candidate while his boss carries on the legal fight. But nothing is predictable and UEFA has thus had to prepare to meet the eventualities of an uncertain future.

Various options

Infantino said: “This is not the time for any sort of speculation. UEFA is functioning, working, and the executive committee has taken note of the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and wishes that the process will be swift and supports Michel Platini’s right in having a fair trial and the right to clear his name.”

At this stage, said Infantino, it was “too early” to talk about possible for the Platini succession – whether the Frenchman is banned from football or clears his name and secures the FIFA presidency.

“This has not been discussed,” added Infantino. “We have time at the next executive committee meeting in January to decide on the situation.”

Platini’s continuing suspension means he cannot attend what would have been one of the highlights of his UEFA reign, the draw in Paris for the finals of the European Championship in his homeland in June.

Jacques Lambert, French president of the organising committee, said he was very disappointed for Platini an old friend with whom he had worked in organising the 1998 World Cup in France.

Lambert stepped down from the FIFA ethics investigatory committee earlier this autumn precisely because of his relationship with Platini.

He said: “I resigned because I was aware of the rules of confidentiality and was torn between the this confidentiality and my friednship towards Michel Platini. I had to make a choice between the two duties and I made a choice for my duty of friendship.

“I’m disappointed he won’t be at the draw because he has been behind this process from the beginning. He has lost a battle today but he has not lost the war and as long as the war is not lost we can still harbour hopes.”

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