Blatter and Platini are banned from football (Getty)

(WFI) FIFA’s top judge today handed down bans for world football’s most powerful men for financial misconduct.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his UEFA counterpart Michel Platini each received eight-year bans. Blatter was also fined 50,000 Swiss francs ($50,230) and Platini 80,000 Swiss francs ($80,370).

Hans-Joachim Eckert, chair of FIFA’s ethics adjudicatory body, ruled that they had breached four articles of the governing body’s Code of Ethics over the $2 million “disloyal payment” FIFA made to Platini in 2011 for his work as a consultant to Blatter from 1998-2002.

“Mr Blatter, in his position as president of FIFA, authorised the payment to Mr Platini which had no legal basis in the written agreement signed between both officials on 25 August 1999,” FIFA’s ethics statement said.

“Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment. His assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber.”

FIFA’s ethics judge said there was insufficient evidence to establish bribery and corruption in the case – “that Mr Blatter sought the execution or omission of an official act”.

But FIFA said Blatter’s conduct towards Platini was a breach of article 20 ‘Offering and accepting gifts and other benefits’.

The pair had denied wrongdoing but could only ever explain the transaction as a gentleman’s agreement and there was no record of the payment in FIFA’s accounts.

“Furthermore, Mr Blatter found himself in a situation of conflict of interest, despite which he continued to perform his related duties, failing to disclose said situation and the existence of personal interests linked to his prospective activities,” the statement said, pointing to a violation of the code of ethics ‘conflicts of interest’ and ‘loyalty’ (because “he failed to place FIFA’s interests first and abstain from doing anything which could be contrary to FIFA’s interests”.

Blatter also breached FIFA’s ‘General rules of conduct’.

“Mr Blatter’s actions did not show commitment to an ethical attitude, failing to respect all applicable laws and regulations as well as FIFA’s regulatory framework to the extent applicable to him and demonstrating an abusive execution of his position as president of FIFA.”

Platini was also banned from football for breaking the same four FIFA ethics rules, although the corruption charge was also dropped.

“Mr Platini failed to act with complete credibility and integrity, showing unawareness of the importance of his duties and concomitant obligations and responsibilities. His actions did not show commitment to an ethical attitude, failing to respect all applicable laws and regulations as well as FIFA’s regulatory framework to the extent applicable to him and demonstrating an abusive execution of his position as Vice-President of FIFA and member of the FIFA Executive Committee,” FIFA’s ethics statement said of the ‘General rules of conduct’ breach.

Blatter is scheduled to hold a news conference at FIFA’s old headquarters at 11am CET.

Both men are sure to take their appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with decisions possible in late January or early February.

Now disgraced, Blatter is desperate to cap his 18-year tenure as the head of global football with a farewell to the 209 FIFA member federations at the Feb. 26 FIFA Congress, which will elect his successor. Many of them have backed him through the storms of corruption that have dogged his presidency.

Platini’s ban has virtually killed his presidential bid to replace Blatter, unless he can overturn the sanction at the CAS and pass a FIFA integrity test which seems highly unlikely.

Eckert’s judgements were handed down following an eight-hour ethics hearing for Blatter at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich on Thursday and a nine-hour hearing for Platini; his lawyers attended but he didn’t in protest against a verdict he claimed was pre-determined. 

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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