European federation UEFA must look for a new president after Michel Platini lost his fight at sport’s supreme court to overturn a suspension imposed for breaching the ethics code of world federation FIFA.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, in Lausanne, trimmed Platini’s sentence from six years to four but maintained the finding against him over charges arising out of an issue financial misconduct imposed by FIFA. His fine was similarly cut to SFr 60,000.
He has the right to appeal to the Swiss Federal Court but has said that he considered CAS his last practical option and that he would be stepping down as head of European football’s governing body.
Platini had been suspended for eight years from all football activities by FIFA’s ethics committee last December over his acceptance of a SFr2m ‘disloyal payment’ from FIFA, on the authority of president Sepp Blatter.
The 60-year-old Frenchman and Blatter claimed the payment, made in 2011, was for work the Frenchman had undertaken for FIFA nine years earlier by a verbal agreement.
However, the CAS panel said it was “not convinced by the legitimacy of the payment [which] was not based on any document established at the time of the contractual relations and did not correlate with the alleged unpaid part of his salary.”
The CAS statement added that Platini “benefited from the extension of a pension plan to which he was not entitled” and that his “behaviour was not ethical or loyal.”
The suspension, trimmed to six years by FIFA’s own appeal committee, prevented Platini from standing for the FIFA presidency in succession to Blatter who was duly succeeded instead as the head of world football by Gianni Infantino, who had been Platini’s general secretary at UEFA.
Platini, still seeking to clear his name and return to the UEFA leadership, duly appealed to CAS, protesting his innocence of charges which he considered to have politically motivated.
Witnesses called included Blatter, the Spanish vice-president of FIFA and UEFA Angel Maria Villar as well as Jacques Lambert, French head of the Euro 2016 organising committee and an old friend and colleague of Platini.
After the hearing Platini remained positive, saying: “I am even more optimistic after this . . . I told the judges that I worked, I issued a bill, I followed the FIFA directives, I received money and I paid my taxes. That’s it.”
Blatter’s appeal against his own ban will be heard separately at a later date.
Platini’s disgrace is all the greater because of the enduring memories of his magical playing career.
Born in June 21, 1955, ‘Platoche’ began with local Nancy-Lorraine and advanced his club career with Saint-Etienne and Juventus in Italy where he remains hugely popular, despite events.
Platini set out on the road to international superstardom at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 then stepped up a gear at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Four years later he inspired France to fourth place in Spain after being voted man of the match in the dramatic semi-final shoot-out defeat by West Germany in Seville.
After the 1982 World Cup Platini was sold to Juventus with whom he was three times the Italian league’s top scorer and converted the penalty kick which brought Juve their long-awaited European Champions Cup victory in 1985 (albeit overshadowed in the midst of the Heysel tragedy).
At national team level Platini scored 41 goals in 72 internationals and led by example when France won the 1984 European Championship on home soil. He was not only their captain but top-scored with nine goals including hat-tricks against Belgium and Yugoslavia and the first goal in the 2-0 victory Spain in the Final.
Platini was, simply, the greatest football achiever of his generation whiich included being voted European Footballer of the Year three years in succession.
After retiring he concentrated briefly on commercial interests and TV work until he was persuaded to become national manager and took France to the finals of the 1992 European Championship. France disappointed but Platini moved up to an even more prestigious role as co-president of the domestic Organising Committee for the 1998 World Cup finals.
By this time Platini had forged a close working relationship with the then FIFA general secretary Sepp Blatter. Platini canvassed support for Blatter’s successful bid to become FIFA president and was rewarded with an appointment as football counsellor.
Platini held that paid role between 1999 and 2002 and was responsible for creating and introducing the integrated international calendar which is now taken for granted in both national team and club games, including the enforcement of player release for competitive internationals.
One notable issue on Platini had to admit defeat was technology. He opposed, resolutely, the introduction of goal-line technology. In vain. In his suspended absence ‘his’ UEFA executive committee decided to introduce it at Euro 2016 and the imminent Champions and Europa League finals.
In 2003 he stood for election to the UEFA executive committee, with Blatter’s support, and then in 2007, again with his mentor’s persuasive backing, ousted Swedish veteran Lennart Johansson as president of the European football.
Platini made himself felt. Automatically now a FIFA vice-president he recast the terms of his European office to become an executive president and enforce significant changes.
These included expanded access to the Champions League for the supportive ‘middle class’ of nations, enforcing the ambitious financial fair play project and expanding the European Championship finals to 24 teams.
Ironically now Platini will be unable to preside over the first such expanded tournament . . . and in his own home country, too.