FIFA rejects Blatter, Platini appeals against 90-day bans
Nov. 18, 2015
GENEVA (AP) — Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini lost their appeals Wednesday against interim 90-day bans for financial wrongdoing in the growing corruption scandal that has shaken world soccer.
Platini's lawyer said FIFA had "perverted its own rules," and taken more than two weeks to notify him of a FIFA appeals committee verdict that was dated Nov. 3 — further stalling the former France great's FIFA presidential bid.
"It's crystal clear that this staggering delay is the result of an instrumentation aiming at holding back Michel Platini," Paris-based lawyer Thibaud d'Ales told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
The provisional ban stops Platini from working as UEFA president and halts his candidacy for the FIFA election on Feb. 26. Blatter is also barred from his FIFA presidential office.
Blatter's American lawyer said the FIFA head was "disappointed" by the ruling, and called the lost time in publishing the ruling "inexplicable."
"President Blatter is committed to clearing his name and hopes this inexplicable delay is not an effort to deny him, during his elected term, a fair hearing before a neutral body," Richard Cullen said in a statement.
The rejection of their legal challenges was expected from the appeals panel — chaired by Larry Mussenden, the former attorney general of Bermuda — which rarely overturns judgments by FIFA judicial bodies.
Platini and Blatter will now file further appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where appellants can choose one of the three lawyers to judge their case.
Platini will contact CAS by Friday and has "absolute confidence" in the Swiss court, lawyer d'Ales told the AP.
"For the first time since he was suspended he knows that he will be treated in a completely independent and fair way," d'Ales said.
Blatter "looks forward to the opportunity to be heard, including through the presentation of evidence and argument of counsel, and thereby demonstrate he has engaged in no misconduct," Cullen said.
The bans were imposed last month by FIFA's ethics committee pending full investigations into a $2 million payment Blatter approved for Platini in 2011 as backdated salary. Platini was employed by Blatter as a presidential adviser from 1998-2002.
Both men deny wrongdoing, though they have acknowledged there was no written contract for the extra salary.
Blatter and Platini are expected to appear before FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert in December and face lengthy bans if misconduct is found proven.
Switzerland's attorney general has opened criminal proceedings against Blatter for suspected criminal mismanagement of FIFA money, over Platini's $2 million and the undervalued sale of Caribbean TV rights for the World Cup.
Swiss federal authorities also questioned Platini at FIFA headquarters on Sept. 25 and are treating him as "between a witness and an accused person," according to the attorney general Michael Lauber.
Platini is among six men competing to succeed his former mentor Blatter as FIFA president.
While the other five candidates — including UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino — have passed integrity checks overseen by FIFA's election committee, Platini's vetting process is on hold until his ethics case is resolved.
He faces a ban of at least several years if the FIFA ethics court finds him guilty of conflicts of interest and breaching the terms of his suspension. Whatever sanctions Eckert applies can also be appealed to CAS.
Blatter could face an ethics charge of falsifying FIFA accounts if the $2 million did not appear in the financial accounts during the nine-year gap between Platini's employment and payment.
AP Sports Writers Samuel Petrequin and Jerome Pugmire in Paris contributed to this report