Four top FIFA officials were suspended on October 8 including long-standing president Sepp Blatter and UEFA head Michel Platini, once thought a possible successor to Blatter. What’s going on?
Who’s been suspended?
FIFA’s ethics committee handed out a 90-day “provisional suspension” with immediate effect to Sepp Blatter, the 79-year-old Swiss who has been president of world football’s governing body FIFA since 1998, Michel Platini, head of European football’s governing body UEFA and a FIFA vice-president, and Secretary General Jerome Valcke. The suspensions can be extended by up to 45 days. All three have denied any wrongdoing.
South Korea’s former FIFA Vice-President Chung Mong-joon was also banned from the game for six years.
The ethics committee did not give any details of the offences committed by Blatter and Platini, referring to ongoing investigations. But it is almost certainly looking into a CHF2 million ($2.06 million) payment from FIFA to Platini in 2011, nine years after he completed a spell working for Blatter as an adviser.
On September 25, the Swiss Attorney General said it had opened a criminal investigation into Blatter concerning that matter and a Caribbean television rights deal. Platini is regarded as somewhere “between a witness and an accused person” in the payment case, the attorney general has said.
Valcke had already been sent on leave after being accused of being part of a scheme to sell 2014 World Cup tickets at a marked-up price. Chung was found guilty of breaches relating to South Korea’s failed bid for the 2022 World Cup.
Who’s in charge now?
With Blatter suspended, the top job at FIFA falls automatically to Issa Hayatou, the son of a sultan from Cameroon who has ruled African soccer for 27 years. He is now acting president during Blatter’s suspension. But Hayatou comes with his own set of baggage, including previous corruption allegations and a reprimand by the International Olympic Committee. Hayatou has denied any wrongdoing and has said he won’t stand for president in February.
Platini has to leave his job as head of UEFA for 90 days, but UEFA defied FIFA's suspension of Platini, saying he would not be replaced as head of UEFA and giving him its backing in the appeal process. According to UEFA statutes, Platini should have been replaced by Angel Maria Villar, the highest-ranking vice president.
So it’s game over for Blatter and Platini…
Not until the final whistle! After the 90-day suspensions expire, if they haven’t been extended by 45 days the ethics committee must either take further action against Blatter, Platini and Valcke or allow them to return to work.
Blatter was already due to stand down after an election for his replacement on February 26, so any suspension would end just beforehand. Platini was a frontrunner to replace him and his shrinking election hopes now depend on whether he can overturn the 90-day ban.
All four can turn to FIFA’s appeals committee to try to overturn the bans, but they would remain suspended throughout any appeals process.
Who will become FIFA president in February?
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan is the new bookies’ favourite, with Platini and Issa Hayatou second and third respectively.
Presidential candidates must gain five nominations from FIFA’s 209 member associations by October 26. Platini submitted his formal candidacy to stand in the election early on October 8. That means it will have to be considered by the election committee after the October 26 deadline. Only Brazilian great Zico and Liberian football federation president Musa Bility have so far expressed an interest in standing.