News 16 February 2016

Blatter slinks out of the FIFA back door after appeal hearing

Sepp Blatter always envisaged leaving FIFA through the grand front door, cheered to the rafters and smiling at his obsequious and grateful loyal servants while clenching his fists high in both appreciation and acknowledgement.

By contrast, it was silently and through a back door that he slipped out of the Home of FIFA tonight after what was expected to be a fruitless appearance before the world federation’s appeal committee.

Blatter was seeking to overturn the eight-year ban from all football imposed on him just before Christmas by the ethics committee headed by German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert for the notorious ‘disloyal payment’ five years ago of SFr2m to Michel Platini.

On Monday it had been the turn of Platini, French president of European federation UEFA still, to plead his own case. Most likely the appeal committee will shrink from challenging the ethics verdict so Blatter and Platini must take their substantive cases, instead, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Legal precision

Preparation of those cases could take several months because all the legal niceties – and translations – have to be set in precise place since both parties then have the option to carry on the fight to the Swiss federal court.

Blatter arrived early for his hearing and, like Platini, spent around eight hours in the building with his lawyers.

On Monday evening Platini, who was also served with an eight-year ban for financial misconduct in office over the same payment, appeared comparatively relaxed and satisfied that he had received a fair hearing.

He had been accompanied by his lawyer Thibaud D’Ales and supported by two witnesses: Frenchman Jacques Lambert, who is president of the Euro 2016 organising committee and had worked with Platini in running the 1998 World Cup in France, as well as Spaniard Angel Maria Villar.

The latter, a senior vice-president of both FIFA and UEFA, had his own knuckles rapped by the ethics committee in December over non-co-operation with its inquiry into the 2019-2022 World Cup bid scandal. He is also involved in a political wrangle back home with the Spanish sports council which could have intense repercussions.

Blatter and Platini, being banned from football, are unable to attend the congress in Zurich on Friday of next week which is due to vote on a major reforms package and then choose a new president.

• This article was originally published on Keir Radnedge’s internet site on 16 February 2016. To access the original, please click here.

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