Blat­ter suf­fers one last de­feat over FIFA mis­con­duct

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Sport’s high­est court yes­ter­day re­jected the ap­peal of for­mer FIFA pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter against a six year ban sig­nalling the end of his ef­forts to clear his name. The 80-year-old for­mer foot­ball power­bro­ker was ousted over a two mil­lion Swiss franc ($2 mil­lion/1.8 mil­lion euro) pay­ment to UEFA boss Michel Pla­tini which the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport called an “un­due gift” that could not be jus­ti­fied.

Blat­ter called the verdict “in­com­pre­hen­si­ble” but also ac­knowl­edged that he has come to the end of the road in his fight to clear his name. “I will not be ap­peal­ing in a Swiss court,” he told AFP, turn­ing his back on what would have been his last legal re­course.

Ear­lier, how­ever, he main­tained that guilt had not been proven. “It is dif­fi­cult to fol­low it, be­cause the prin­ci­ple of ju­ris­dic­tion-cul­pa­bil­ity has to be proven by pros­e­cu­tion-was not ap­plied,” Blat­ter said in a state­ment.

“Nev­er­the­less I look back with grat­i­tude to all the years, in which I was able to re­alise my ideals for foot­ball and serve FIFA,” added the Swiss of­fi­cial widely con­demned by crit­ics dur­ing his 18 years as head of the world foot­ball body. The pay­ment made to Pla­tini in 2011 for work car­ried out a decade ear­lier with­out any con­tract led to the down­fall of both men. Pla­tini had been ex­pected to take over from Blat­ter, but has also seen mul­ti­ple ap­peals re­jected by tri­bunals and courts. Blat­ter could face more trou­ble as he re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Swiss prose­cu­tors over the pay­ment and for the way in which the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Rus­sia and Qatar, re­spec­tively.

Blat­ter and Pla­tini said they had an “oral con­tract” for the pay­ment. This was firmly dis­missed by the CAS which also said Blat­ter must pay a 50,000 Swiss franc fine.

The tri­bunal ruled that a writ­ten em­ploy­ment con­tract estab­lished be­tween Pla­tini and FIFA in 1999 voided any oral agree­ment con­cluded be­tween Blat­ter and Pla­tini in 1998 al­low­ing for a one mil­lion Swiss franc a year salary. “Ac­cord­ingly, by ap­prov­ing a pay­ment of two mil­lion Swiss francs to Mr Pla­tini in 2011 for the bal­ance of work car­ried out un­der the al­leged oral agree­ment, Mr Blat­ter breached the FIFA code of ethics.”

It said “the pay­ment amounted to an un­due gift as it had no con­trac­tual ba­sis. “The panel fur­ther found that Mr Blat­ter un­law­fully awarded con­tri­bu­tions to Mr Pla­tini un­der the FIFA ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee re­tire­ment scheme which also amounted to an un­due gift.”

Blat­ter, who still uses his FIFA limou­sine, and Pla­tini have now both had all ap­peals re­jected by FIFA’s ethics court and CAS. Blat­ter’s sus­pen­sion has been re­duced from eight years to six and Pla­tini from eight to four years.

French foot­ball leg­end Pla­tini has taken a case to the Swiss courts and Blat­ter could have done the same. But the civil courts are re­luc­tant to get in­volved in in­ter­na­tional dis­putes, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, and Blat­ter has de­cided against that op­tion.

FIFA and UEFA mean­while have launched cam­paigns to cleanse their tainted im­ages un­der new lead­ers who have promised re­form. FIFA is now led by Gianni In­fantino who has em­barked on ma­jor changes at the world foot­ball body in­clud­ing re­plac­ing many staff em­ployed in the Blat­ter era.

FIFA said only that it had “taken note” of the CAS verdict. Alek­sander Ce­ferin has taken over at UEFA also promis­ing a new era of trans­parency.

The air of cor­rup­tion has not com­pletely cleared how­ever. More de­tails of the com­mer­cial un­der­belly of sport are ex­pected when US courts start sen­tenc­ing 39 foot­ball and mar­ket­ing of­fi­cials ac­cused of in­volve­ment in more than $200 mil­lion of bribes for tele­vi­sion and other com­mer­cial con­tracts.

Blat­ter’s air of in­vin­ci­bil­ity ended when Swiss po­lice raided a Zurich ho­tel in May 2015 to de­tain seven FIFA of­fi­cials who are now among the de­fen­dants in the United States. The ar­rests came on the eve of his re­elec­tion as FIFA pres­i­dent and he was sus­pended months later.— AFP

LAUSANNE: Matthieu Reeb, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport, CAS, speaks to jour­nal­ists dur­ing the re­lease of the de­ci­sion in the case be­tween Sepp Blat­ter and the FIFA in front of the CAS in Lausanne, Switzer­land, yes­ter­day. Blat­ter has lost his CAS ap­peal against a 6-year ban by FIFA. — AP

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