Blatter to appeal FIFA ban, says ‘betrayed’ by judges
Sepp Blatter said he will appeal against a Monday ruling by FIFA’s ethics court banning him from football for eight years, claiming he was “betrayed” by judges who ignored evidence.
Speaking in Zurich, symbolically at the site of FIFA’s former headquarters, Blatter said he would first take his case to a FIFA appeals committee before challenging his suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.
FIFA judges banned the long-serving president Blatter and his one-time heir apparent Michel Platini over a 2 million Swiss franc ( 2 million/1.8 million euros) payment that Blatter authorised to Platini in 2011, reportedly for consulting work done a decade earlier.
Both men insisted the payment was legitimate as part of an oral contract.
Blatter said he was “astonished” that judges rejected evidence concerning the existence of an oral contract.
“You ask me if I feel betrayed... the answer is yes,” said the Swiss national.
Speaking in English, he added that the ethics committee “deny an evidence and they try to build something up which is not true... Something that is not true cannot be proven”.
He also said he “was sorry for FIFA”, which has been engulfed in an unprecedented corruption scandal, including waves of criminal indictments targeting top officials by the United States justice department.
There is also an ongoing criminal investigation by the Swiss attorney general, of which Blatter is the main target. “As president of FIFA, I am this punching ball,” added Blatter, who led world football’s governing body for 17 years before his suspension.
Blatter voiced confidence in the appeals process and said he was still holding out hope that he could again be in charge in time for a FIFA congress set for February, when his replacement will be chosen.
Platini had been the favourite to win that vote before his suspension. Former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary Peter Velappan, who occupied that position when Asia hosted its first ever World Cup in South Korea and Japan in 2002, said the length of the bans was like a “death sentence”.
“This is very harsh, especially for Blatter because he dedicated his life to football and FIFA,” said Velappan.
“It’s unfortunate that the bribery scandal happened and you can’t take away the blame from him either but still, eight years is too harsh. Eight years is like a death sentence.”
Velappan backed the pair’s record in boosting football in Asia and said that should have been taken into consideration.
“Blatter and Platini are football personalities and you have to look at the contributions they have made to the game,” he added.
“A one or two-year ban would have been understandable. This is very unkind. They have both done a lot for the AFC and football.”
However, for Spanish Football League president Javier Tebas, the bans should have been longer.
“Eight years, that doesn’t seem much to me. Platini’s sanction... is due to the fact that they didn’t respect the normal FIFA internal procedures,” he said. “Bypassing economic controls is very serious and the sanction should ensure they can never again exercise power in a sporting institution.
“They no longer deserve the confidence of the world of football and sportsmen.”
For English football icon David Beckham, this episode should be used as an opportunity to implement vital reforms in the game.
But the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star remains upbeat about the future. “I’m sure at some point there will be a huge amount of change at FIFA,” he said.
“No matter what corruption is going on at the highest level, it will never be as big as the game itself.”
Former English Football Association chairman David Bernstein said it would be unfair to bung Blatter and Platini into the same bracket.