FIFA – Blatter & Platini: Time Off For… Good Behaviour???

by | Feb 25, 2016

For fuck’s sake.

Sorry about the language. I felt compelled to swear a bit in yesterday’s Fifa article (even a proper columnist, the Guardian’s Marina Hyde, chucked a swearie or two into her latest missive on the subject). But only because there was no more appropriate way to react. Likewise the Fifa Appeals Committee decision(s) to, according to the fifa.com headline, “dismiss” the appeals by Joseph S Blatter and Michel Platini against their bans from football activities and yet somehow simultaneously reduce said bans. Even before getting to the actual decision, the fifa.com article is a nonsense. Both crooks men had their eight-year bans reduced to six, a sort of middle ground between the life bans the Ethics Committee’s investigatory chamber sought and the complete exoneration and “see you at Congress and Euro 2016” Blatter and Platini publicly claimed would be the right decision. “I’ve done nothing and I’m not afraid of anything,” Platini said, “If I had anything to reproach myself for, I would be hiding in Siberia in shame.”

The Appeals Committee was chaired by Bermudan FA president and former Bermudan senator and attorney-general Larry Mussenden. Mussenden is currently a candidate for the CONCACAF federation presidency (previous incumbents Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb, arrested in May and Alfredo Hawit, arrested in December) about which I have no comment to make at this point. However, it was not as if Mussenden’s committee wrote the two extremes of sanctions down at each end of a strip of paper, shut their eyes, stuck a pin in that paper and based their sanction decision on where the pin landed. It just might as well have been, for all the sense the decision makes. And if Mussenden was the name which leapt off the page on which cynics were reading the committee’s announcement, then the phrase “partially confirmed” the decisions to ban Blatter and Platini also caught the eye. They meant “partly” as opposed to “not impartially”, one assumes (tentatively, given the organisation with which we are dealing here). Fifa either don’t employ sub-editors or, if they do, self-awareness isn’t a required skill.

The bans have been reduced because “while agreeing with the principles and arguments” behind the original “calculation of the sanction,” Mussenden’s committee “determined that some strong mitigating factors for Mr Platini and Mr Blatter were not taken into account when establishing the sanction.” “In this sense,” they continued, using a nice line in irony, the committee “considered that Mr Platini’s & Mr Blatter’s activities and the services they had rendered to FIFA, UEFA and football in general over the years should deserve appropriate recognition as a mitigating factor.” In “a sense” that is true. Their “activities” certainly did “deserve appropriate recognition.” But, outside Fifa’s various committees, chambers and bubbles, appropriate recognition meant life bans. However, the Appeals Committee said there was “insufficient evidence available” to establish a breach of the Fifa Code of Ethics article concerning bribery and corruption “in the present case,” the breach which the investigatory chamber had argued was worthy of life bans. And they lopped a year off both the five-year ban for the breach concerning “offering and accepting gifts and other benefits” and the three-year ban for breaches concerning “general rules of conduct,” “loyalty” and “conflicts of interest.”

In keeping with their oft-displayed gall, Blatter and Platini are taking their “cases” to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with Platini’s journey “through all the possible appeals” only “starting with CAS.” Platini was ultra-quick off the mark with his reaction, a statement which will form the basis for “lack of self-awareness” classes for years to come. The decision was a (unspecified) “violation of rights.” The charges were “baseless,” “built from the ground up” (whatever that means) and “surreal in view of the facts and explanations I gave during the hearing,” the details of which are not yet published. And you can take his word for the “surreal” nature of the charges, as much of his statement shows him to be an authority on the subject. Only now, it seems, has Fifa’s true nature dawned on him. The decision was “actually a political decision made by the FIFA administration.” Well, yes. Check Harold Mayne-Nicholls for details (see 200% Fifa articles passim).

And this Fifa “administration” was “a bureaucracy acting without a counter-power within an organisation that has confiscated the power of a century-old democratic federation.” Well, yes again. We know. And given that the “disloyal” payment which kick-started his disciplinary case was for work done by this very “administration…acting…within an organisation,” you’d have thought he would have known too. Surreal, indeed. Especially as immediately after leaving his 16th February appeal hearing, Platini said: “It’s been a very good hearing, very well conducted, with people who have been sincere.” He’s nothing if not consistent, Monsieur Platini. And if his appeal to CAS goes the same way, “nothing” is exactly what he will be in football. Almost as surreal in certain contexts has been the silence (thus far) from Blatter. Although immediately after his 16th February appeal meeting, he’d sounded almost as contentedly delusional as Platini: “My hearing on Tuesday was special, which contrasted with the hearings before because the appeal board is composed only of persons belonging to FIFA. I was more comfortable with all the members.” But, Christ on a bike, he and his people had plenty to say in the days surrounding the hearing.

His lawyer, Thomas Renggli, said on January 29th that Blatter “should be present” at tomorrow’s congress because: “Only the congress, according to the statutes, can put Mr. Blatter out of his mandate.” What the statutes actually say on the subject is “……………………..” Blatter’s lawyer a liar? Who would have thought it? Blatter himself maintained his old stance about not being responsible for indicted confederation executives he did not elect. Yet he somehow felt unobliged to quote from the statutes on this issue, especially the sections that say the president is “primarily responsible for relations between Fifa and the Confederations.” (He also body-swerved the section that says “only the president may propose the appointment of the Secretary-General” when…er…”his” secretary-general Jerome Valcke was dismissed last month. Odd, that).

He told French radio station RMC that the charges against him were “not an ethical matter but a matter of accounting. It was just a paid debt,” adding, presumably for the benefit of his French audience that “Platini is innocent, like me” (technically true, if you are being linguistically pedantic). He told The Times newspaper’s Martyn Zeigler: “I have killed nobody, I have not robbed a bank” and, with a phrase which may be worth future recollection, “I have not taken any money from anywhere.” And, although unlikely to be a legal clincher, he stressed that he “was even treating well all my ex-girlfriends. They defend me. One I was married to only for a few months and she is really defending me.” How you judge the judgment of anyone who shacked up with Blatter is a matter for you. Likewise how you judge Blatter’s comments in an interview where he also said: “You cannot buy a World Cup.” You would not put it beyond Blatter to take offence at the Appeals Committee equating his and Platini’s “activities and services rendered to football in general,” which is presumably what they have done, given the two-year sanctions reduction they applied to both. After all, Platini was never the “president of everybody”, as Blatter declared to Fifa Congress last May after his re-election for a fourth term. Omni-president for only four days, admittedly. But still…

Platini’s services to football in general, one imagines, includes his glittering career on the pitch, where even Blatter would concede the Frenchman had the edge (wouldn’t he?). It is, however, difficult to argue that the tournament-winning displays in the 1984 European Championship merited a reduction in sanctions for ethics breaches two decades later. There won’t be many significant football figures arguing that “his” financial fair play” system is any form of mitigation either. And heaven only knows what part of Blatter’s career got him two years off. His latest claims included giving Fifa credit for football having “never been as good as it is now” because “you only need to cast a glance at the Champions League to see the quality.” That’s the Uefa Champions League he’s talking about.

As it stands, then, both men will be back in football a month before the start of…the 2022 World Cup, purely co-incidentally, I’m sure. Mind you, some might suggest they would have been invited anyway, for “services they had rendered,” although I couldn’t possibly comment. Just as they have both been invited to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which is especially handy for Platini, who might be “hiding in shame in Siberia” long before then (see above). Still, Blatter and Platini are men of the past. After tomorrow, under the new Sheikh Salman regime, Fifa can put all talk of financial secrecy, backroom dealings and suspect ethics behind it and… ah…

For fuck’s sake.

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