ISTANBUL: UEFA president Michel Platini is on delicate ground as the European federation stages an executive committee meeting and Congress in the city spanning the Bosphorus writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Most places he travels, the former France captain and top scorer finds himself among friends. This is not the case in Turkey hence the diplomatic importance of his audience with Prime Minister Recep Erdogan on Monday.

Two isses burn bright among many local football officials. One concerns the narrow victory of France over Turkey in the contest to win host rights to the European Championship finals in 2016; the Turks were pipped by one vote among the UEFA executive and view the nationality of  the organisation’s president with suspicion.

This scepticism was exacerbated for one sector of Turkish football when UEFA barred Turkish champions Fenerbahce from this season’s Champions League following a major matchfixing scandal. This  is currently the subject of the trial of no fewer than 93 people over events surrounding at least 13 games in the country’s top two divisions last season.

One of the games concerned was Fenerbahce’s 4-3 victory over Sivasspor which clinched the league championship on the final day of last season. The  indictment also names Besiktas – who had to give back last season’s Turkish cup –  and Trabzonspor.

Held in custody

Fourteen players are among the defendants along with  Aziz Yıldırım, the president of Fenerbahce.  Yildirim, who has been held in custody ever since his arrest last autumn, has denied all charges and counter-claims that they are politically-motivated. The scandal, almost unfathomly complex for outsiders, involves all strands of Turkish sport, politics and business.

Platini met Erdogan at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s offices in Ankara on Monday, along with Sports Minister Suat Kilic, UEFA’s Turkish vice-president Senes Erzik and new Turkish football federation president Yıldırım Demiroren.

No statement was issued afterwards but unconfirmed reports in the local media claim that Platini suggested Erdogan should urge Fenerbahce to withdraw a €45m compensation claim filed against UEFA in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Last month more unconfirmed reports claimed that Demiroren – a former president of Besiktas – had offered, on behalf of the Turkish federation, to pay the €45m to Fenerbahçe if the club would withdraw its CAS claim.

Turkish sport needs the dispute resolved as soon as possible, not least  because Istanbul is considered a serious contender to win host rights to the 2020 Olympic Games. Rivals are Baku, Doha, Madrid and Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee decides in May whether to trim back on the number of candidates proceeding to the decisive vote in Buenos Aires in September next year.

Earlier this month Istanbul was named as the 2012 European Capital of Sport.

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