KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: A defiant Sepp Blatter has promised: “I will be back,” after denouncing the eight-year football ban imposed on the FIFA president by the world federation’s ethics committee.
He said he would follow process via the FIFA appeal committee, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Swiss civil courts.
The 79-year-old Swiss, already fearing the worst, had summoned a news conference to the lecture theatre of the old FIFA House which he had hired as ‘private citizen’. He was flanked by his former FIFA ‘ghost-writer’ Thomas Renggli and his daughter Corinne.
Blatter opened with a rambling reference to the qualities of humanity and respect exemplified by Nelson Mandela and which, he felt, had been denied him by his accusers.
He had been made a “punching ball” and for this he felt sorry as a representative “for football, for FIFA, for the 400 FIFA team members and also for how I am treated.”
Much of Blatter’s comments were directed to his perception that he had been accused of paying UEFA president Michel Platini SFr2m to buy votes in the 2011 FIFA presidential election.
Blatter denied this vehemently – although, in fact, no such accusation of corruption was levelled against him by the ethics committee. Presumably if it had found him guilty of corruption it would have banned him for life.
He repeated the familiar tale of the payment to Platini which had been agreed for the Frenchman’s work for FIFA between 1998 and 2002, an undertaking which was always official, open and above board. Blatter’s statement that the deal had been subject of comment by the UEFA executive committee at the time was irrelevant.
However, the payment had been agreed, Blatter conceded, via “a verbal contract or gentleman’s agreement.”
Blatter said to punish him was unjust, adding: “will fight for me and I will fight for FIFA. Suspended for eight years for what? . . . Now [Michel Platini] is being called a liar and I’m [being called] a liar and this is not correct.
“So, with my lawyer, I will use sporting justice to go forward immediately to the appeal committee, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, also to the Swiss court for my rights as a Swiss citizen.”
Blatter should know, after all his years in FIFA, that taking action in the civil courts over a football decision is contrary to the world federation’s statutes.
Blatter did concede that the agreement should have been registered properly by the FIFA administration and its omission was “an error.”
However he added: “This has nothing to do with ethics. It is just about financial and administrative duties. There was an error but this was not something to do with the ethics regulations.”
Blatter also complained about the original 90-day suspension, obviously failing to understand the provisional nature of the order pending the outcome of the full investigation.
He also believed that he, as president, should be beyond the jurisdiction of the ethics committee. Hence he still intended to fight so that he could preside over the February 26 election to choose his successor.
Blatter said: “I am ashamed about the ethics committee’s existence and that they didn’t go into the evidence presented and that this committee has no right to go against the president.
“The president of FIFA can only be released from his activities by the congress . . . otherwise you cannot elect another president.”
Maintaining his defiance, Blatter continued: “We are being presented as liars and for what reason they didn’t believe Mr Platini or me. It’s a question of respect. Justice.
“You cannot condemn somebody without valid reasons and now I am condemned to being suspended and Mr Platini as well so it is not finished. I will fight and I hope Michel will do the same.
“Personally I am a fighter and, because I am the elected president, I wanted to be there for the election of the new president but I have been cut off so I am struggling to restore my rights until February.
“We have time to do this and I believe in God and in myself and I believe in the sport bodies of FIFA and the one [CAS] we set up together with the IOC and that on February 26 I will be able to preside over FIFA Congress.”
Finally, after noting that “perhaps I am not the most clever man in the world but I am not stupid,” Blatter concluded: “I’ll be back!”
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