PARIS (Reuters) - Former French soccer great Michel Platini, until recently seen as the man to lead soccer’s governing body FIFA out of its worst ever graft crisis, could face a life ban from the sport if recommendations from FIFA ethics investigators are followed.
FIFA’s ethics committee has completed an inquiry into accusations of corruption against Platini, who as a player led French soccer out of the doldrums in the 1980s before becoming one of the sport’s most powerful officials, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter
A media consultant representing Platini’s lawyer Thibaud d’Ales said ethics committee official Vanessa Allard had recommended a life ban for the Frenchman, who is head of European soccer’s governing body UEFA.
“I can confirm that she is proposing to the ethics committee a ban for life,” the consultant told Reuters.
Allard’s report has been passed to FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert who is due to issue a verdict by the end of the year.
Swiss authorities opened criminal proceedings against Blatter in September over a 2 million Swiss franc ($1.97 million) payment from FIFA to Platini in 2011. The case was part of a broader scandal that broke around FIFA in May when 14 officials including two ex-vice presidents were indicted in the United States.
Platini, who in May said that he was disgusted by corruption within FIFA, and Blatter have both been suspended for 90 days. They deny wrongdoing.
Blatter’s former public relations officer and confidant Klaus Stoehlker said the Swiss did not want to “go into detail for now” on what the committee had recommended in his case.
“He was very surprised at the news about Platini,” Stoehlker added.
Platini, still determined to run in February’s election for president in Zurich, has registered as a candidate but FIFA’s electoral committee has said his bid cannot be processed while he is suspended.
He could be allowed back into the race if the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) accepts his appeal against the 90-day ban but could then be eliminated again if Eckert’s panel hands him a long-term ban in its final verdict.
If that happens, Platini would also have to quit his role UEFA president which he has held since 2007.
For a long time, Platini was considered the natural successor to Blatter who has weathered one crisis after another in his 17 years as FIFA president.
The FIFA scandal is one of the biggest of several corruption affairs shaking world sport. International athletics has also suffered revelations of doping, largely affecting Russia, and corrupt manipulation of anti-doping test results.
Platini was one of the most gifted players of his generation and inspired a French team which played with an exuberant Gallic flourish that delighted international audiences during the early to mid 1980s.
He went on to coach the national team, then played a key role in helping France host the 1998 World Cup before moving on to become a member of the FIFA and UEFA executive committees in 2002 and, finally, UEFA president in 2007.
The FIFA payment to Platini was made in 2011 for work Platini had completed nine years earlier, the Swiss attorney-general’s office has said, adding Platini was considered “between a witness and an accused person.” Platini says the payment was delayed only because of financial problems at FIFA.
Reporting By Brian Love; writing by Brian Homewood in Zurich; editing by Ralph Boulton