(WFI) Michel Platini’s career in football administration is over. He will step down from UEFA after the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected his appeal over a ban but reduced it to four years.
The CAS was ruling on the “disloyal” $2 million payment agreed verbally between Platini and disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and executed in 2011, which led to the pair’s bans from football in December. The FIFA Appeal Committee in February cut Platini’s original suspension from eight to six years before today’s verdict signaled the end of his once-glittering and untarnished footballing career.
The Frenchman’s lawyers confirmed that the 60-year-old, who described the verdict as “a deep injustice”, will now resign as UEFA president.
With Euro 2016 being staged next month in his own country, the judgement is a huge embarrassment to Platini and represents a remarkable fall from grace for the three-time European Footballer of the Year regarded as a football legend in France.
The CAS panel’s verdict was damning, stating that the 2 million Swiss francs payment “was only recognized by Mr. Platini and Mr. Blatter, and which occurred more than 8 years after the end of his work relations, was not based on any document established at the time of the contractual relations”.
Arbitrators also noted that Platini benefitted from “the extension of a pension plan to which he was not entitled”.
They said Platini obtained an undue advantage and found him guilty of a conflict of interest, two breaches of the FIFA Code of Ethics.
Sports highest court said the six-year ban was “too severe”, slashing it to four years “which corresponds to the duration of a presidential term”.
Crucially, it said a severe sanction was justified because of Platini’s standing in world football at the time – UEFA president, FIFA vice president – as well as “the absence of any repentance and the impact that this matter has had on FIFA’s reputation”.
The CAS also criticized FIFA, noting that world football’s governing body knew of the $2 million payment in 2011 “but initiated an investigation into Mr. Platini’s behaviour with the FIFA Ethics Committee in September 2015 only”.
Blatter has also taken his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and can likely expect similar treatment.
Today’s ruling fires the starting gun on the race for the UEFA presidency.
UEFA’s top brass are convening a meeting on May 18 in Basel to discuss next steps in electing a new president. There’s no certainty that UEFA will rush into planning an elective congress before the June 10- July 10 European Championships. But after former general secretary Gianni Infantino’s election as FIFA president in February, leaving European football without its top two officials, UEFA will undoubtedly benefit from new leadership sooner rather than later.
In a statement, UEFA said it had taken note of the CAS decision. “We have also taken note of Michel Platini’s statement announcing his intention to resign as UEFA president,” it said, adding that no interim UEFA chief would be appointed.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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