LAUSANNE: Sepp Blatter has failed in the attempt to overturn his six-year ban from all football activities before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Blatter, 80, was banished and fined 50,000 Swiss francs just before Christmas last year by the world federation’s ethics committee over a 2m Swiss francs payment in 2011 to the then UEFA president Michel Platini. The two men claimed it was for work Platini had undertaken for FIFA a decade earlier.
An initial eight-year ban was reduced in February to six years by the FIFA appeal committee. However it maintained the finding of culpability. Blatter then appealed to CAS which staged 14-h0ur hearing on August 26 at which Platini gave evidence.
Platini had also appealed to CAS and had his own six-year ban trimmed to four years. He was then forced to relinquish his presidency of the European federation.
Blatter was re-elected as president of FIFA in May of last year but four days later he announced his intention to step down under the weight of scandal. He was succeeded by Gianni Infantino at an extraordinary elective congress in February this year.
All along Blatter has insisted his innocence of all wrongdoing though he remains under criminal investigation by the Swiss authorities over the Platini payment and associated issues.
In reacting to the CAS verdict, Blatter said it was “difficult” to accept but that “the way the case progressed, no other verdict could be expected.”
A statement continued: “I have experienced much in my 41 years in FIFA. I mostly learned that you can win in sport, but you can also lose. Nevertheless I look back with gratitude to all the years, in which I was able to realise my ideals for football and serve FIFA.”
The three-man CAS panel of Manfred Nan (Netherlands), Patrick Lafranchi (Switzerland) and Andrew de Lotbinière McDougall (Canada/France) decided that Blatter “breached the FIFA Code of Ethics since the payment amounted to an undue gift as it had no contractual basis.”
Further, the panel found that Blatter “unlawfully awarded contributions to Mr Platini under the FIFA Executive Committee retirement scheme which also amounted to an undue gift.”
The panel noted that Blatter had requested the annulment of the ban rather than a reduction but considered in any case that “the sanction imposed was not disproportionate.”
Blatter, who may appeal on a point of law to the Swiss Federal Court, is not clear of FIFA ethics action.
He faces a further investigation over alleged bribery and self-dealing in his contract, plus the employment deals of his sacked ex-secretary-general Jerome Valcke and finance director Markus Kattner.
Ethics investigators said in September the latest case involved an alleged “coordinated effort by three former top officials of FIFA to enrich themselves.”
Blatter received a 12m Swiss franc ($12m) bonus after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and would have been due another 12m Swiss francs for completing his 2015-19 presidential term, the contracts revealed.
The CAS judgment:
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has issued its decision in the arbitration procedure between Joseph S. Blatter and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
The appeal of Joseph S. Blatter has been dismissed. As a consequence, the decision rendered by the FIFA Appeal Committee (FIFA AC) on 16 February 2016 remains in force and Mr Blatter remains banned from taking part in any football-related activity at national and international level for six years as from 8 October 2015 and must pay a fine of CHF 50,000.
In March 2016, Mr Blatter filed an appeal at the CAS in which he requested that the FIFA AC’s decision be reversed; that he be acquitted of all ethics charges and that his ban be vacated.
The arbitration procedure was conducted by a panel of CAS arbitrators, composed of Mr Manfred Nan, President (Netherlands), Mr Patrick Lafranchi (Switzerland) and Mr Andrew de Lotbinière McDougall (Canada/France).
The Panel heard the parties at a hearing which took place at the CAS headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland on 26 August 2016.
The Panel found that the written employment contract established between Mr Platini and FIFA in 1999 voided any oral agreement concluded between Mr Blatter and Mr Platini in 1998 that the latter would be paid CHF 1 million per year for his work at FIFA.
Accordingly, by approving a payment of CHF 2 million to Mr Platini in 2011 for the balance of work carried out under the alleged oral agreement, Mr Blatter breached the FIFA Code of Ethics since the payment amounted to an undue gift as it had no contractual basis.
The Panel further found that Mr Blatter unlawfully awarded contributions to Mr Platini under the FIFA Executive Committee retirement scheme which also amounted to an undue gift.
Turning to the sanction, the Panel noted that Mr Blatter requested the annulment of the ban but did not request a reduced penalty. In any event, the Panel determined that the sanction imposed was not disproportionate and therefore confirmed the Appealed Decision in full.