UEFA president Michel Platini’s ban from football has been reduced from six years to four years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Platini and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter were initially given eight years by world football’s governing body over a two million Swiss francs payment, worth around £1.4m at current exchange rates, made by Blatter to Platini in 2011.
That December ruling was reduced to six years by a FIFA appeal panel in February and has now been reduced again by CAS, but the Lausanne-based court has backed FIFA’s judgement that the payment was “unfair” and a “conflict of interests”.
A spokesman for Platini’s lawyer has already confirmed that the 60-year-old Frenchman will now resign as UEFA president, a position he has held since 2007.
The three-man CAS panel, chaired by Italian Luigi Fumagalli, heard all the evidence in the case afresh in eight hours of testimony on April 29.
Blatter and Platini have always maintained that the payment was back-pay for consultancy work the former France and Juventus star did between 1998 and 2002, and it was based on a “gentleman’s agreement”.
They have repeatedly claimed that Blatter agreed to pay Platini an annual salary of one million Swiss francs, worth £700,000 now.
But CAS could only find evidence of a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs and noted that the 2011 payment came more than eight years after Platini’s work at FIFA had finished, but four months before Blatter won the 2011 presidential election.
CAS said “it was not convinced by the legitimacy of this payment” and said Platini also “benefited from the extension of a pension plan to which he was not entitled”.
As a result, CAS found that Platini had breached articles 19 and 20 of FIFA’s code of ethics, as he was guilty of a conflict of interests and gaining an unfair advantage.
But CAS has decided that the FIFA sanction was “too severe” and should be limited to the duration of a presidential term, four years.
However, it added that “a severe sanction could be justified in view of the superior functions carried out by Mr Platini, the absence of any repentance and the impact that this matter has had on FIFA’s reputation”.
It also reduced the fine imposed by FIFA on Platini from 80,000 Swiss francs to 60,000 Swiss francs (£43,000).
A reduction, however, was not what Platini wanted or needed to keep his place among world football’s elite, and with no chance of returning to any football-related activity before the end of his UEFA presidential term he simply had to resign.
In a statement issued via his spokesman, Platini said: “I take note of the decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport but I view it as a profound injustice.
“This decision inflicts on me a suspension that effectively, as luck would have it, stops me from contesting the next FIFA presidential election.
“As agreed with the national associations, I am resigning from my duties as UEFA president to pursue my battle in the Swiss courts to prove my innocence in this case.
“Life is always full of surprises: I am henceforth available to experience more of them.”
CAS rulings are meant to be final and binding within sport but some disappointed parties have attempted to overturn verdicts in the Swiss courts – very few have been successful however.
The 80-year-old Blatter is still waiting for his CAS appeal to be heard but he can be in little doubt as to what the result will be.
He, however, had already lost his grip on power and is simply fighting to clear his name.
Platini, on the other hand, had a European Championship in his native land to look forward to and three more years in charge of European football, as well as those ambitions for Blatter’s old job. All that is in tatters now.
UEFA will now hold a meeting of its executive committee in Basle on May 18, the day of the Europa League final, to work out its next move.
It is currently run by an interim general secretary, Theodore Theodoridis, as former incumbent Gianni Infantino successfully replaced Platini as UEFA’s candidate in February’s FIFA election and is now in Mexico City preparing for his first Congress in football’s most senior position.
The European confederation is expected to move quickly to permanently replace both Platini and Infantino, with a new president set to be in place by September.