Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were each banned for eight years by the FIFA ethics committee in a stunning blow to world football’s most powerful leaders.
Blatter, the FIFA president, and his one-time protege Platini were kicked out of the sport for a conflict of interest and disloyalty to FIFA over a $2m payment deal that is the subject of a criminal investigation in Switzerland.
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Speaking at a news conference at FIFA’s former headquarters in Zurich on Monday, a defiant Blatter said he would appeal against the ban.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m still a punching ball,” he said. “But I will fight. I will fight for me and I will fight for FIFA.”
Michel Platini, the UEFA president, said he also lodge an appeal against the ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
In statement, Platini described the FIFA ethics commission’s procedure against him as a “true mockery”, saying that it had been “orchestrated … by governing bodies that I know well” to tarnish him.
Platini’s bid to succeed his former mentor in the February 26 presidential election is now likely to be over, though both are expected to appeal to the FIFA appeals committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Blatter had already suggested he could pursue a lengthier appeal to Switzerland’s highest court, the federal tribunal, which can intervene if legal process was abused.
Ethics judges decided that Blatter and Platini broke the FIFA code of ethics rules on conflicts of interest, breach of loyalty and offering or receiving gifts.
Both denied wrongdoing in 2011 when Platini took $2m of FIFA money, approved by Blatter, as uncontracted salary for work as a presidential adviser from 1999 to 2002.
Blatter was fined 50,000 Swiss francs ($50,500) and Platini, a FIFA vice-president and head of European football’s governing body UEFA, was fined 80,000 Swiss francs ($80,800).
“Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment,” the judges said.
“By failing to place FIFA’s interests first and abstain from doing anything which could be contrary to FIFA’s interests, Mr Blatter violated his fiduciary duty to FIFA.
“His [Blatter’s] assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber.”
Blatter and Platini both have strong motivation to fight the bans in fast-track appeal cases.
Blatter, who turns 80 in March, wants a FIFA swansong by hosting the election congress in Zurich and being made honorary president by the 209 member federations.
The 60-year-old Platini wants to clear his name, pass a FIFA integrity check and be declared an official candidate in the election he had been favoured to win.
Platini’s campaign has stalled since he was questioned on September 25 in a Swiss federal investigation of suspected criminal mismanagement at FIFA.
Switzerland’s attorney general has opened criminal proceedings against Blatter for the suspected “disloyal payment” of FIFA money to Platini and selling undervalued World Cup TV rights for the Caribbean.
Platini’s status in the criminal case is “between a witness and an accused person”, Michael Lauber, the attorney general, said in October.
In recent media interviews, both men have said that Platini asked Blatter for a salary of one million Swiss francs ($1m). He got a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs ($302,000) annually, in line with FIFA’s then-wage structure, plus a “gentleman’s agreement” to get the rest later.
Swiss law obliged FIFA only to pay the deferred money within five years.
Platini was paid in February 2011, just before Blatter began campaigning for re-election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.
Platini’s UEFA urged its members weeks before the June 2011 poll to back Blatter, who was elected unopposed when bin Hammam was implicated in bribery.
Few FIFA officials knew of the Platini payment, which emerged during a wider Swiss investigation into the governing body’s business affairs, including suspected money laundering in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.
The agreement was “a classic conflict of interest” between two executive committee members, Domenico Scala, the FIFA audit panel chairman, said in October.