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Old 13th October 2015, 12:30   #1
TanyaT
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Default The FA left red-faced as Michel Platini is dragged into Fifa scandal

The FA left red-faced as Michel Platini is dragged into Fifa scandal

Greg Dyke and co were seduced by hopes they would hold influence in the world game should Platini rise to replace Sepp Blatter

Owen Gibson
The Guardian
Sunday 11 October 2015 23.23 BST


Last time England played a European Championship qualifier at Wembley, Michel Platini dined with the Football Association top brass in their banqueting hall behind the Royal Box in a warm fug of mutual appreciation. Then, Greg Dyke and the rest of the FA blazers thought the Uefa president virtually a shoo-in for the top job in world football as Fifa collapsed in on itself.

Platini had, after all, been a friend to the FA, awarding Wembley two Champions League finals and the climax to the continent-wide Euro 2020 championship. In the air, too, was the possibility of hosting the 2030 World Cup should Platini take the reins. Not to mention that Platini might help Dyke in his battle with the Premier League over the homegrown players issue.

None of which on its own was the reason why the FA threw its early backing behind Platini’s leadership bid before the emergence of so much as a mission statement let alone a manifesto. But together they were all contributory factors to effusive backing that cannot help now look naive as the three-times European footballer of the year battles to save his reputation and his career.

Martin Glenn, the new FA chief executive, had talked about how there was “immense value” in supporting a Uefa candidate and concluded it would “place English football well” to have a “guy like Michel” running Fifa. To be fair to Glenn, who has otherwise made a solid start at the FA, he also said: “It’s about how to reform the organisation as much as who does it.” Yet that should have been the overriding message rather than an addendum.

By the time England faced Estonia at Wembley on Friday night, the talk over dinner had taken on a very different hue after another extraordinary week – with a furious Platini grudgingly exiled from his Uefa domain having been banned for 90 days, like his one-time mentor Sepp Blatter, by Fifa’s ethics committee.

More than two weeks have now passed since Platini was questioned as someone “between a witness and an accused person” under Swiss law over that £1.3m “disloyal payment” – that is, against the interests of Fifa – from Blatter. Platini has conceded he received an annual payment under a contract with Fifa to be Blatter’s adviser between 1999 and 2002. But nine years later, he invoiced for £1.3m having claimed that Blatter told him at the time that Fifa did not have the money to pay him, despite Fifa’s accounts for the period showing it made a surplus of £75m, feeding an ever growing cash pile that now stands at £849m.

Platini has made three attempts at explaining the payment but has yet to publicly produce any paperwork to back up his case or convincingly explain away the nine-year delay.

Uefa’s understated approach – dictated sometimes seemingly on a whim from the president’s office but put into practice by an able cadre of administrators – can seem seductive.

Four hours from the Zurich madhouse, Uefa’s base on the shores of Lake Geneva in Nyon hums with calm purpose. But the personal enmity between Platini and Blatter, who were once so close that the latter recently described their relationship then as like “father and son”, obscures their similarities.

Like Blatter, Platini is surrounded by courtiers who tell him what he wants to hear. Like Blatter, he has swum in the shark-infested waters of Fifa’s politics of patronage, favours and threats for far too long. Like Blatter, he can be charming but betrays a certain disdain for the media and a belief that he is almost always right.

The FA has always swung between expedience and occasional bouts of righteous indignation in its dealings with Fifa’s cronyism. It deserves some credit for the stand it took in 2011 when Dyke’s predecessor, David Bernstein, stood virtually alone in calling for Blatter’s coronation for a fourth term be postponed.

Dyke instinctively recoils from Blatter’s crazed banana republic, a Byzantine system of payments and favours cultivated over 40 years. His bemused reaction to his first Fifa congress in São Paulo, which he likened to “something out of North Korea”, said a lot. But the FA’s mistake was in rushing into thinking narrow football politics outweighed the bigger picture. Seduced into believing they could be a big influencer in Platini’s new Fifa, they rushed unthinkingly to back him. In doing so, they also betrayed the eternal truth that English football thinks it has more influence that it does.

The FA, remember, backed Blatter over the Uefa president Lennart Johansson in 1998 because they thought it would help them land the World Cup. Subsequently, Blatter’s victory was followed by all kinds of dark rumours about brown envelopes under hotel doors. It was the moment that consolidated the power Blatter had accrued under João Havelange and cemented Fifa’s warped value system. Four years later, it was Issa Hayatou who received the FA’s backing. During the bids for the 2006 and 2018 World Cups, England’s mandarins routinely scraped on bended knee to Fifa’s warped cast of corrupt rogues.

Johansson, Platini’s predecessor at Uefa, said last week before the suspensions: “Platini’s still part of the same world. That’s my impression. I doubt he will be able to reform Fifa.”

It took the suspension, against which Platini yesterday formally lodged his appeal with Fifa’s appeal committee, and two attempts at a statement for Dyke to finally come out and say what he should have said all along – that the FA’s support for Platini would be withdrawn if the allegations were proved. Better still, of course, would have been to have kept their counsel to begin with.

Just as Blatter was crushed by the banner headlines in his native Switzerland when the FBI swooped, so Platini will have been most discomfited by the front pages in a France.

Ultimately, Platini’s predicament – and by extension those who backed him – stems from a set of cosy assumptions that flow from their belief that European football is the cradle of the game and its financial powerhouse.

The danger is that, as Sheikh Salman of Bahrain and Sheikh Ahmad of Kuwait mull their options and the new interim Fifa president Hayatou (“meet the new boss …”) considers where to place the support of African confederation, things could be about to get worse.

And unless Platini somehow supplies some convincing answers, Europe and the English FA have wantonly forfeited the chance to do anything about it.


http://www.theguardian.com/football/...l-platini-fifa
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