UEFA is likely to be leaderless when it stages the European Championship finals in France in June and July.
The European federation’s executive committee, meeting at its headquarters in Nyon, east of Geneva, insisted on maintaining its full support for president Michel Platini who is contesting an eight-year ban imposed for financial misconduct by the ethics committee of world federation FIFA.
In Paris last month the executive committee had scheduled an extraordinary congress for February 25 – the eve of FIFA’s own presidential election – and postponed the ordinary congress in Budapest from early March until May 3.
That prompted speculation that it was setting up the technical possibility of organising a European presidential election in May so as to have a new leader to preside over the European Championship finals in Platini’s homeland.
However the executive committee has now taken an apparent step back. After having “taken note” of Platini’s suspension it decided that all talk of a UEFA election should be off the agenda until the Frenchman had exhausted all his legal options.
Platini has challenged his ban with the FIFA appeal committee which is likely to rule against him next month for fear of undermining the organisation’s own ethics committee.
Hence Platini must then appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. This would take several months, particularly since FIFA’s investigatory chamber wants a heavier punishment. Even then Platini would have the option of appealing to the Swiss federal court.
In those circumstances it is impossible to envisage a final ruling being delivered in time for UEFA to organise an election congress before June.
A UEFA statement said: “The executive committee decided there will be no UEFA presidential election scheduled until the sports justice appeal bodies, including potentially the Court of Arbitration for Sport, have taken a decision regarding Michel Platini’s suspension.
“We hope his name is cleared and that he can return to the European football family as quickly as possible.”
Several national associations were known to be doubtful about how long UEFA could continue without a formal president in place.
They also realise however that, at a time when UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino is pursuing the FIFA presidency, this is not the time for the UEFA ‘family’ to offer any public signs of division.
Furthermore UEFA, if it does not have Frenchman Platini at its helm for Euro 2016 in his own back yard, will not offer him the personal embarrassment of having apparently written him off by parading a successor.
Infantino shrugged off a question, at a news conference, about how UEFA would cope if he were elected to the top job at FIFA next month, leaving the European governing body without both a president and a general secretary.
He said: “In that case the executive committee will have to take a decision on who should take over the role. I have a deputy and there are other departmental directors. I don’t have any worries about UEFA.”