LAUSANNE: The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Friday backed a 90-day FIFA ban against Michel Platini, in a new blow to the Frenchman’s hopes of entering the FIFA’s presidential race.
The decision means Platini will not be allowed to attend Saturday’s draw for the 2016 European Championship in his native France which he helped to organise as UEFA president.
Platini had been the favourite to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president until he was named in a Swiss criminal investigation in September.
FIFA suspended Platini and Blatter while an investigation was held into a two million Swiss franc (1.8 million euro/$2 million) payment from FIFA.
The drama took a further, bitter twist late Friday when the spokesman of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, which will discuss the Platini and Blatter cases next week, said the Frenchman could be banned for “several years”.
“Platini will certainly be suspended for several years,” Andreas Bantel told French sports daily L’Equipe.
“Suppose even the charge of corruption is not accepted by the chamber, there are many others offences such as a conflict of interest, mismanagement or falsification of accounts.”
Platini’s lawyers were furious, blasting Bantel for being politically-motivated.
– ‘Sham’ –
“He has breached the presumption of innocence and demonstrates the political objectives being pursued by FIFA’s Ethics Committee,” said a statement from Platini’s legal team emailed to AFP in which they also branded the case against their client as a “sham”.
“The hearing set for December 18 will therefore be of no use.”
In its appeal to CAS, Platini’s lawyers had insisted the football legend had done nothing wrong and was being unfairly blocked from campaigning for FIFA’s presidency.
But the three CAS judges unanimously decided that no irreparable damage had been caused.
The judges urged FIFA to quickly reach a final decision and also said there should be no extension to the suspension.
Blatter and Platini now faces hearings before FIFA’s ethics watchdog court on December 17 and 18 to answer for the payment made for work as an advisor.
According to Platini’s lawyers, FIFA’s ethics investigators recommended Platini should be banned for life. Blatter also faces further punishment.
FIFA’s verdict could be given as early as December 21.
The provisional suspension of Blatter and Platini ends on January 5.
The UEFA executive committee, which met in Paris on Friday, said it “took note of the CAS decision relating to the provisional suspension of its president Michel Platini and requests a swift disciplinary process by the relevant FIFA bodies on the merits of the case.
“The UEFA executive committee once again supported Michel Platini’s right to a due process and the opportunity to clear his name.”
Platini’s camp voiced optimism after the CAS ruling. “Michel Platini knows he will ultimately be exonerated”, his lawyer Thibaud d’Ales told AFP.
He said that given the emergence of new evidence — a 1998 UEFA document indicating that UEFA knew Platini had been made an advisor to Blatter — FIFA’s judges would not be able to issue a ruling before January 5.
FIFA opened an investigation after Swiss prosecutors questioned a the million Swiss franc payment Platini received from FIFA in 2011 for work done a decade earlier.
– ‘No wrongdoing’ –
Blatter and Platini acknowledge there was no contract for the fee, but insist that their “oral contract” is valid under Swiss law. Each insists there was no wrongdoing.
Platini’s lawyers are particularly relying on the 1998 document. Switzerland’s attorney general confirmed Friday that it had taken possession of the UEFA document and other material.
With the possibility of a lifetime suspension pending, a victory on Thursday would not have marked the end of Platini’s problems.
But it would have been a symbolic win for the man who seemed on track to become the most powerful figure in the world’s most popular sport.
Blatter’s replacement will be decided by a vote of FIFA’s 209-member associations on February 26.
Blatter’s 17-year tenure as FIFA’s president culminated with a major corruption scandal, which has seen 39 people within world football charged with corruption by the US justice department.
The Swiss national on Friday told Japan’s Nikkei business daily that he would be back in office in time for the February congress, but the impending verdict from FIFA’s ethics court could rule that out.
In the meantime, the five confirmed presidential candidates continue to make their case to FIFA voters.
They include France’s Jerome Champagne, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, South African business tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, Asia’s football chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Gianni Infantino, Platini’s deputy at UEFA.