KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —– The manner in which Sepp Blatter played fast and loose with FIFA money has been laid bare by the written judgment of his vain appeal to CAS against his six-year ban from football.
Blatter, 81-year-old president of the world federation from 1998 until December 2015, was banned initially for eight years by the ethics committee for misuse of funds [$2m] in 2011 in favour of Michel Platini, the then head of European governing body UEFA.
Frenchman Platini, whose UEFA role meant he was also a vice-president of FIFA, was also banned from football for accepting both the cash without justification and a significant injection into his pension arrangement.
The question, properly not explored by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, was whether Blatter handed out FIFA cash right, left and centre to other close associates within the leadership of FIFA.
Unresolved speculation has surrounded the circumstances behind the timing of the payment at a time when Plaitni had decided not to contest Blatter’s re-election in 2011.
Initially ethics investigators had demanded a life ban for Blatter for alleged violations of the ethics code including bribery, gift-giving, breach of loyalty, conflict of interests, falsifying financial statements, and general unethical behaviour. Blatter denied all the charges.
In the event he was banned for eight years reduced on appeal to six years by the FIFA appeal committee.
He then took his appeal to CAS, insisting that the payment had been made to honour an ‘oral contract’ and that a $1m four-year pension top-up had been made as a permitted “exception” to the rule that it should apply only to years of service on the executive committee.
Hence Blatter created a pension fund for his former protege of $2.6m in 2015 instead of a properly-due $1.52m.
The CAS panel stated: “The credit awarded to Mr Platini therefore certainly amounted to a gift as he was not entitled to such credit.”
As for the payment due to Platini for his work at FIFA between 1998 and 2002, the panel ruled there was no verbal agreement or valid contract concerning a backdated payment in 2011.
Platini was initially due to be paid an annual CHF1m but later signed a contract for CHF300,000 to ensure he did not earn more than FIFA’s secretary general.
However in 2010 Platini demanded $2m “upon learning of ‘golden parachutes’ received by [former senior FIFA officials] Mr Urs Linsi and Mr Jerome Champagne.”
Blatter told CAS he recalled a verbal agreement with Platini but had “forgotten that they had a written contract (in 1999).”
In a 68-page statement, CAS said: “The Panel considers Mr Blatter’s conduct in the matter as FIFA president reckless, or at least profoundly careless, as he approved the payment without checking the written contract, without asking his employees for the written contract to be checked or doing any verification whatsoever.
“Mr Platini said that he had not realised he had made a mistake about how much money was owed to him until the Swiss prosecutor showed him a copy of the August 1999 contract in September 2015.”
Blatter and Platini were questioned during a Swiss police raid on FIFA and the former FIFA president remains under criminal investigation concerning both misuse of funds and a TV rights deal in the Caribbean.
The departure of Blatter led to last year’s presidential election in which he was ultimately succeeded by Gianni Infantino, who had been Platini’s general secretary at UEFA.
The full CAS judgment: http://www.tas-cas.org/