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ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA's Appeal Committee will never face a bigger task than ruling on the suspensions of Sepp Blatter and the man who has been most likely to succeed him as president, Michel Platini.
Last year, it was the focus of world soccer when it ruled against Uruguay's Luis Suarez's who had appealed his four month ban for biting an opponent at the World Cup in an incident seen by millions of fans on television.
But with the governance of the entire sport under scrutiny from U.S. and Swiss prosecutors, the Blatter and Platini cases are in a different league for a body that has track record of standing firm in the face of high-profile cases.
Despite their denials of wrongdoing, both men have gradually been submerged by the scandal that has rocked the world's most popular sport, beginning with dawn raids and a series of arrests at a Swiss luxury hotel in May.
Blatter and Platini were on Thursday banned for 90 days by the Ethics Committee which was reformed and ring-fenced as independent from FIFA under reforms which were passed in 2011.
Platini's hopes of succeeding Blatter, due to step down in February, now depend on whether he can overturn the ban at appeal. The Appeal Committee, headed by Bermudan lawyer Larry Mussenden, is part of the old FIFA structure. It hears ethics cases as well as those from on the pitch.
It comprises 14 members, who are elected by the FIFA Congress and are not allowed to sit on the executive committee. Only three are needed to conduct a hearing.Some, such as Fiji's Samuel Ram who was appointed in 2013, have a legal background.Others, such as Madagascar's Ahmad Ahmad and Austria's Leo Windtner, are presidents of their countries' respective football federations.
Some are former federation officials such as Bolivia's Edgar Pena Gutierrez who said in a newspaper interview three years ago that he mainly devoted himself to cattle-ranching these days.The committee usually stays out of the spotlight, although it has dealt with a number of high-profile cases. FIFA did not immediately reply for a comment on how many cases the committee deals with, and Mussenden could not reached.
However, in major cases it seems to have had little sympathy for those who appeal.One such case was in 2011, when it rejected former Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam's appeal against a life ban over a cash-for-votes scandal.It also rejected appeals from executive committee members Reynald Temarii and Amos Adamu over their bans for allegedly offering to sell their votes in the 2018/22 World Cup bidding process to undercover newspaper reporters in 2010.In 2013, the committee increased a ban on former executive committee member Vernon Manilal Fernando from eight years to life following separate appeals by both Fernando and the FIFA ethics committee's chief investigator.Croatia international Josip Simunic fared little better when he appealed against a 10-match international ban for discriminatory behavior that kept him out of the World Cup. The committee confirmed the original decision "in its entirety".In another case last year, it ruled that a protest by then chief ethics investigator Michael Garcia against ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert was inadmissible.Garcia, who did not accept Eckert's verdict on his report into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process, resigned immediately afterwards.Spanish giants Barcelona also found little sympathy last year as they lost their appeal against a transfer ban for breaching rules relating to the international transfer of minors. They were prevented from registering players for two transfer windows.
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Alison Williams