Sepp Blatter has become the first of Wednesday’s suspended officials to submit formal notification of an appeal against the decision of the world football federation’s ethics committee.
Blatter took the initiative amid discussions of a call for an emergency meeting of FIFA’s executive committee to discuss the latest crisis and even a postponement of the presidential election set for February 26.
FIFA’s Blatter, UEFA president Michel Platini and FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke – already sent on ‘gardening leave’ – were given 90-day suspensions pending the outcome of a full inquiry into allegations of mismanagement.
A formal criminal investigation was instigated two weeks ago against Blatter over the alleged miss-selling of a World Cup television rights contract in the Caribbean and authorising a ‘disloyal payment ‘of 2m SwFr to Platini.
The latter has insisted the money was for work undertaken for FIFA between 1999 and 2002 but has consistently failed to offer a plausible explanation over why it was not paid until nine years later and at an extremely delicate political time.
Valcke was relieved of his duties by Blatter, after discussion with Platini and other confederation leaders, on the basis of a hearsay allegations about World Cup ticketing from a ticket tout.
Blatter’s appeal to the FIFA appeals committee was submitted overnight by his Swiss and United States lawyers. His associate and adviser Klaus Stohkler confirmed: “He has appealed already to FIFA’s appeal committee. He is defending his position and he is sure that he will be found not guilty.”
In fact the issues of the suspension and innocent or guilt are separate, a point which appears to have escaped both Blatter and Platini judging by their initial angry statements yesterday following the verdicts.
The suspensions have the effect of removing both men from the game – and, more particularly, from their offices – to permit an investigation to be undertaken without any risk of claims that documents and/or data have been tampered with or any undue concerns over the possibility of even unintentional intimidation of staff.
Time may become an issue, particularly with the deadline for presidential candidacies set for October 26 which is the major concern for Platini.
An appeal cannot go ahead until the written reasoning of a decision has been delivered. This is not a matter of a scribble on a Zurich tram ticket. All documents must theoretically stand the legal validity test which might be demanded by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and, beyond it, the Swiss Federal Court.
Larry Mussenden, from Bermuda, is the chairman of the FIFA appeals committee. He was the man who ‘blew the whistle’ originally on the disgraced and departed Jack Warner from Trinidad & Tobago and Mohamed bin Hammam from Qatar.
UEFA’s 54 member associations will convene next Thursday in Nyon to discuss the crisis and an emergency FIFA executive committee meeting could follow in Zurich the following week. Such a gathering needs a formal request from 13 members of the exco.
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has said the governing body will drop its support for Platini if the ethic committee decides there has been wrongdoing.
Dyke said: “If the ethics committee reaches a conclusion that Mr Platini has not behaved properly or has behaved dishonestly then of course the FA will not support him.”
If there were any finding of wrongdoing by the investigations into the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups then Dyke was convinced a re-vote wojld be essential.
He said: ”I have no doubt if the evidence comes out that a bid was won by corruption there will have to be a re-vote,” he said.
UEFA has said Platini “will not perform his official duties for the time being.” He did not attend a meeting of the UEFA executive committee on Thursday and has cancelled several official trips.