Zurich, Dec 21 (IANS) World football governing body FIFA’s Ethics Committee here on Monday handed an eight-year suspension to both its president Sepp Blatter and European football chief Michel Platini.
The two were found guilty of breaches surrounding a 1.3 million pounds ($2 million) “disloyal payment” made to Platini in 2011. Blatter and Platini had been suspended for 90 days in October.
The bans come into force immediately.
Both have denied any wrongdoing repeatedly and claimed the payment was honouring an agreement made in 1998 for work carried out between 1998 and 2002 when Platini worked as a technical adviser for Blatter.
Platini boycotted the hearing here in protest.
Blatter, FIFA chief since 1998 and aged 79, had already announced he was quitting ahead of the February 26 presidential election.
“Mr Blatter, in his position as President of FIFA, authorised the payment to Mr Platini which had no legal basis in the written agreement signed between both officials on 25 August 1999. Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment. His assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber,” a FIFA statement said.
“The evidence available to the adjudicatory chamber in the present case was not sufficient to establish, to the extent required, that Mr Platini obtained the payment for the execution or omission of an official act.”
Platini, 60, was tipped to be a future leader of FIFA and planned to contest the presidential election to succeed Blatter.
The 60-year-old had been in charge of European football’s governing body UEFA since 2007.
Both men said they will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the verdict.
Platini said he is “at peace with my conscience” after the verdict. Blatter claimed he is the “punching bag”, denying the charge of “disloyal payment” to Platini.
“I will fight. I will fight for me and I will fight for FIFA. Suspended for what? I spoke with my lawyer this morning and we were not surprised that the notification was made first to the media. This committee has no right to go against the president of FIFA. The president can only be removed by the congress. Even suspended, I am still the president. I regret, but I am not ashamed,” Blatter said in a press conference after the verdict on Monday.
“I have never cheated with money. I was not given money for votes from Europe. I already had votes from Europe. I’m really sorry. I’m sorry that I am still somewhere a punching ball. As president of FIFA, I’m still this punching ball. I’m sorry for FIFA. I’m sorry for football. I’m also sorry about me and how I am treated in this world,” he added.
FIFA is in the midst of a severe crisis following numerous allegations of corruption with seven officials being arrested in May.
The United States authorities have charged 39 football officials and sports business executives over more than 134 million pounds ($200m) in bribes for football television and marketing deals.
Swiss prosecutors are also investigating FIFA awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups hosting rights to Russia and Qatar, respectively.