The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) ethics committee has banned both its president Sepp Blatter and Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) president Michel Platini for eight years from all soccer-related activities in a decision made Monday. A Swiss criminal investigation is ongoing.
The severity of the suspensions shocked the global soccer community. FIFA is no stranger to allegations of corruption, but legal attempts to pin wrongdoing on Mr. Blatter have been mostly fruitless so far.
Blatter and Mr. Platini were removed due to conflict of interest and disloyalty to FIFA in a $2 million payment deal. In the deal, Blatter approved Platini to take $2 million of FIFA money in 2011 to compensate for work done as a presidential advisor for three years from 1999-2002.
In their verdict, the judges said, "Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr. Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment. 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.”
In addition to the bans, Blatter and Platini were fined $50,250 and $80,400, respectively.
Corruption has been alleged within FIFA since at least 1991, when the current corruption indictment against FIFA alleges officials with soccer’s governing body worked with sports-marketing firms and other groups to accept bribes in exchange for television contracts.
Until Blatter announced his resignation on June 2, he had been one of FIFA’s longest-serving presidents, having been elected to the position in 1998. Both Blatter and Platini insisted that they had done no wrong.
In a news conference in Zurich, Blatter said, “I'll be back, thank you."
Platini told The Associated Press, "My behavior has always been faultless and I'm at peace with my own conscience."
Platini also intends to file a lawsuit for damages. In a statement, UEFA voiced its support for him, saying, “UEFA supports Michel Platini's right to a due process and the opportunity to clear his name.”
The removal comes at an especially inopportune time for Platini, who was seeking a bid to replace Blatter in the upcoming February 26 election for president of FIFA. Platini wants to be able to clear his name in order to be able to be declared a candidate.
"I'm convinced that my fate was sealed before the Dec. 18 hearing and that this decision is just a pathetic maneuver to hide a true will of taking me out of the football world," he told AP.
The $2 million payment for Platini emerged when a Swiss bank reported it, as part of compliance practices with monitoring money-laundering. Blatter said that the failure to report the payment was an administrative error.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.