Re­gan vents frus­tra­tions with Fifa as strife builds

The Herald - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - GARY KE­OWN

STEW­ART RE­GAN, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Scot­tish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, branded Fifa a “sham­bles” last night, and de­tailed his dis­ap­point­ment in Michel Pla­tini af­ter pub­licly back­ing the French­man to be the next pres­i­dent of world foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body.

The SFA voiced their sup­port for Pla­tini in July, but he has since re­ceived a 90-day sus­pen­sion from all foot­balling ac­tiv­ity by Fifa’s Ethics Com­mit­tee while it in­ves­ti­gates the back­ground to a £1.35m pay­ment he re­ceived from the body’s out­go­ing pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter, in 2011.

Pla­tini in­sists the money, which was not cov­ered by any writ­ten con­tract, was for con­sul­tancy work car­ried out as an ad­viser to Blat­ter up un­til 2002. The even­tual pay­ment pre­ceded Pla­tini’s de­ci­sion to en­dorse Blat­ter for an­other term as Fifa pres­i­dent rather than run against him.

Asked about his feel­ings to­wards the cur­rent UEFA pres­i­dent af­ter go­ing so pub­lic with his sup­port of him as a re­form­ing force in world foot­ball, Re­gan was clear.

“Dis­ap­point­ment, I think it’s fair to say,” he replied. “Prior to the dis­clo­sure of the pay­ment from Blat­ter, he was be­ing seen as a very strong can­di­date.

“We had put in our let­ter of sup­port as had tens of as­so­ci­a­tions across Europe and across the world, ac­tu­ally.

“I think he has dam­aged his rep­u­ta­tion by be­com­ing em­broiled in this is­sue. It is go­ing to be a long way back for him, but it is im­por­tant that he has the chance to clear his name and it is im­por­tant for all of us to un­der­stand the facts and what has gone on.

“That will give our board the chance to con­sider what di­rec­tion we want to take.

“Pla­tini has made things very dif­fi­cult for him­self with the in­for­ma­tion that has been dis­closed. It is go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult for him to come back.

“The dead­line for the elec­tion [of Fifa pres­i­dent] tak­ing place on Fe­bru­ary 26 is key. I don’t think it should be post­poned.

“Once we get more in­for­ma­tion from the Ethics Com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we, as a board, will be able to de­cide what

we do, but, at the mo­ment, it is a sham­bles, quite hon­estly. What’s go­ing on at the top of the game is tar­nish­ing foot­ball’s rep­u­ta­tion.”

Pla­tini’s ex­act role in the con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has also been un­der scru­tiny for some time amid al­le­ga­tions of se­cret meet­ings with key fig­ures and the fact his son, Lau­rent, was given a job as the chief ex­ec­u­tive of a Qatari-owned sports com­pany.

Re­gan, how­ever, in­sists it has been a com­plete shock that the one-time cap­tain of the French na­tional team has been dragged into a cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I am very sur­prised that Pla­tini has al­lowed him­self to be in a po­si­tion where he has re­ceived a pay­ment and there doesn’t ap­pear to be any writ­ten ev­i­dence to sup­port it,” he said.

Blat­ter, who claims the 2022 World Cup was pen­cilled in for the United States un­til Pla­tini started lob­by­ing for Qatar, also made the as­ton­ish­ing al­le­ga­tion ear­lier this week that the de­ci­sion to award Rus­sia the 2018 World Cup was made by Fifa be­fore a sin­gle vote had been cast.

“That, for me, is shock­ing,” said Re­gan. “It’s out­ra­geous if it’s true.”

Should the worst hap­pen to Pla­tini, UEFA’s cur­rent sec­re­tary gen­eral Gianni In­fantino will stand as a can­di­date for the pres­i­dency of Fifa, with Re­gan ap­pear­ing open to giv­ing him his sup­port too.

“Gianni is a cred­i­ble can­di­date,” he said. “Clearly, there is an op­por­tu­nity, de­pend­ing on what hap­pens with Pla­tini, for him to step aside if Pla­tini is cleared.

“He is ca­pa­ble of lead­ing the game, though.”

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