KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Michel Platini is hopeful of resuming his command of European football after his appeal against a six-year suspension from all football activities was heard by three judges at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Frenchman, who remains president of European federation UEFA, is hoping to clear his name so he can resume his role in time for the European Championship finals in his native France in June and July.
CAS agreed to expedite Platini’s appeal hearing in those particular circumstances. It has indicated that a decision may be possible next week though whether this will be in time for Tuesday’s annual UEFA Congress i Budapest is questionable.
The CAS secretary general, Matthieu Reeb, said after the eight-hour hearing that a decision would be announced by May 9 “at the latest”.
Platini, a former three-times European Footballer of the Year who was also a vice-president of world federation FIFA, was banned by FIFA’s ethics committee for eight years just before Christmas over misconduct concerning his acceptance of a SFr2m ‘disloyal payment’ from the then FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Platini and Blatter claimed the payment, made in 2011, was for work the Frenchman had undertaken for FIFA nine years earlier by a verbal agreement.
The suspension was trimmed last month from eight to six years by the FIFA appeal committee which said it had taken into account his services to the game. The sanction had already prevented him standing, as he had intended, for the FIFA presidency.
Instead Blatter, also banned for eight years cut to six, was succeeded a the head of world football by Gianni Infantino, who had been Platini’s general secretary at UEFA.
Platini, before the CAS hearing in Lausanne, spoke optimistically about his prospects. He has always denied wrongdoing. His lawyers had insinuated that the punishments had been politically motivated and that Platini stood a better chance in front of a ‘neutral’ tribunal.
He said: “Today we’re at the beginning of the game, a new game, in the final . . . I hope the outcome will be good. Of course, I am optimistic that we are going to win, that I am going to win.”
Witnesses called included Blatter, the Spanish vice-president of FIFA and UEFA Angel Maria Villar as well as Jacques Lambert, French head of the Euro 2016 organising committee and an old friend and colleague of Platini.
Lambert has already said that, whatever the outcome of the appeal, Platini will have an open invitation to attend any and every match at Euro 2016.
After the hearing Platini remained positive, saying: “I am even more optimistic after this because, sincerely the team that came, and you saw that we were numerous, was very good.
“If I am president of UEFA, I will be at every game at Euro 2016. Now I am going to go on holiday, wait and maybe I will be definitively on holiday, or retired.
“Then, the story is over, absolutely, it’s over. It’s going to end here; my work as a president of UEFA and my work in football will be finished because it’s a ban on working in any soccer-related activity.”
Platini, 60, said he told the hearing that “I worked, I issued a bill, I followed the FIFA directives, I received money and I paid my taxes. That’s it.”
Blatter’s appeal against his own ban will be heard separately at a later date.