PARIS (Reuters) - France’s sports minister questioned the legitimacy of FIFA’s Ethics Committee on Tuesday after it imposed an eight-year ban that appears to have ended his compatriot Michel Platini’s chances of becoming head of the world soccer body.
FIFA’s outgoing president, Sepp Blatter, and Platini, head of the European soccer body UEFA, were both banned on Monday over a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) made to Platini with Blatter’s approval in 2011 for work done a decade earlier.
The committee said the payment, made at a time when Blatter was seeking re-election, lacked transparency and presented conflicts of interest, though both men denied wrongdoing.
French Sports Minister Patrick Kanner said he still backed Platini, the favourite to succeed Blatter until he was suspended, and questioned whether he had been given a fair hearing. Platini said “procedural sabotage” was now blocking his path to the election.
Kanner told Europe 1 radio: ”We know very well that FIFA’s Ethics Committee has been very close to the former managers ...
“I regret this because Michel Platini is in a sense being hounded. Was he able to defend himself under fair conditions? I‘m not convinced.”
The Ethics Committee operates independently of FIFA; its members are appointed by the FIFA Congress and cannot be members of any standing committees.
Blatter himself accused it on Monday of overstepping its powers, and FIFA headquarters issued only a terse acknowledgment of the committee’s ruling.
Platini is a football hero in France, having led his country to two World Cup semi-finals and to victory in the 1984 European championship, as well as helping to organise the 1998 World Cup finals in his homeland, which France also won.
He vowed on Monday to fight his ban in the Court of Arbitration for Sport and to seek civil damages.
But on Tuesday, Platini said FIFA had refused to let him go to the CAS until its own Appeal Committee had heard the case.
He said he had also been told he would not receive the FIFA Ethics Committee’s full reasoning until the first half of January, meaning he stood little chance of standing in FIFA’s presidential election on Feb. 26.
“Prevented by FIFA from appealing directly to CAS, unable to appeal against the sanction of Dec. 18 due to the absence of a reasoned decision from the Ethics Commission, Michel Platini and his advisers denounce procedural sabotage to exclude him from the election to the presidency of FIFA,” he said in a statement.
A spokesperson said FIFA could not waive its statutes and that the normal process had to be followed.
Writing by Brian Love; additional reporting by Sophie Louet and Brian Homewood in Zurich; Editing by Kevin Liffey