FIFA President Sepp Blatter and European soccer boss Michel Platini are both banned from football for eight years for ethics violations
FIFA President Sepp Blatter and European soccer boss Michel Platini were both banned from soccer for eight years on Monday for ethics violations, leaving the global game leaderless as it fights a swirl of corruption cases.
The pair, who were also fined, had been suspended in October while an investigation was carried out into a 2 million Swiss franc ($2.02 million) payment that soccer's global governing body made to Platini in 2011, with Blatter's approval.
The decision means that Blatter's 17 years at the helm of world soccer will end in disgrace, and spells the end of Platini's hopes of replacing the 79-year-old Swiss in a presidential election in February.
FIFA's Ethics Committee said it had not found evidence that the payment, made at a time when Blatter was seeking re-election, constituted a bribe, but that it had nevertheless lacked transparency and presented a conflict of interest.
This meant the men were spared potential life bans. Both have denied any wrongdoing and are almost certain to challenge the decision in FIFA's Appeals Committee and, if necessary, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Seperately, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa from Bahrain was made the favourite to become FIFA's new president in February's election by bookmaker William Hill on Monday.
Sheikh Salman, the president of the Asian Football Confederation, is 6-5, ahead of second favourite Prince Ali bin al-Hussein from Jordan at 13-8, with UEFA's general secretary Gianni Infantino 5-2.
Jerome Champagne was a 20-1 outsider with South African Tokyo Sexwale at 25-1.
"The evidence available to the adjudicatory chamber in the present case was not sufficient to establish, to the extent required, that Mr Blatter sought the execution or omission of an official act from Mr Platini," said a statement, referring to the 'bribery and corruption' section of the code.
But the committee's adjudicatory chamber did find that the payment had been "without a legal basis" and a breach of regulations governing gifts and other benefits.
It said 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".
"By failing to place FIFA's interests first and abstain from doing anything which could be contrary to FIFA's interests, Mr Blatter violated his fiduciary duty to FIFA," it added.
The chamber concluded that Blatter's actions ultimately demonstrated "an abusive execution of his position as President of FIFA".
It also said Platini's argument that there had been an oral agreement for the payment had not been convincing, and that he, too, had abused his position as a FIFA vice-president and Executive Committee member.
"Mr Platini failed to act with complete credibility and integrity, showing unawareness of the importance of his duties and concomitant obligations and responsibilities," it said.
Blatter was fined 50,000 Swiss francs and Platini 80,000.
Blatter told reporters he will appeal against his eight-year ban.
"I will fight for me and I will fight for FIFA," Blatter said, adding he would take his objections to FIFA's appeals body, go before the Lausanne-based sports arbitration panel, or take legal action under Swiss law if needed.
Platini later said in a statement that he was "at peace with my conscience". He vowed to go to court to fight the decision, calling it a "pure masquerade".
The ethics inquiry began in the wake of the Swiss attorney general's decision to open criminal proceedings against Blatter over the payment to Platini. The office is also investigating FIFA's award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar.
In the United States, prosecutors have indicted 27 current or former soccer officials, including eight former FIFA executive committee members and the current heads of both the North and South American federations, over allegations that they ran bribery schemes connected to the sale of television rights for soccer competitions. Twelve people and two sports marketing companies have been convicted.