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Old 19th October 2015, 10:40   #1
TanyaT
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Default Uefa’s reaction to Michel Platini’s Fifa ban reveals its flawed thinking

Uefa’s reaction to Michel Platini’s Fifa ban reveals its flawed thinking

Uefa stands behind Michel Platini but wants his case be dealt with in double-quick time – a fudge of a decision wrapped in a whiff of arrogance

David Conn
The Guardian
Friday 16 October 2015 00.50 BST


Among the tangible unanswered questions about Michel Platini’s £1.35m payment from Fifa, left hanging in the clean air over Lake Geneva after a deeply unsatisfactory afternoon at European football HQ, was why Gianni Infantino, Uefa’s general secretary, was sent out alone to fend them off. A capable Italian lawyer, batting back press challenges in excellent English, French and German, Infantino was defenceless but for a flawed holding position, adopted not by him but 54 European football association representatives, none of whom took a seat alongside him to explain themselves.

These associations, including England’s FA, have unanimously decided that Platini, the Uefa president and still, remarkably, aspirant Fifa clean-up presidential candidate, should be supported until he has had a fair hearing by Fifa’s ethics committee and a seemingly inevitable appeal to the court of arbitration for sport. Yet in a glaring contradiction, wrapped in a whiff of arrogance, they insist this fair process be conducted to a ridiculously quick timetable of their choosing: wrapped up by mid-November.
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In that fudge of a decision, Uefa seems to have forgotten that its president is under serious investigation, no longer the boss of the field. In four public statements, Platini has failed to explain why he and the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, claim Platini was owed a further 2m Swiss francs for work he did at Fifa from 1998 to 2002, then why he was paid it nine years later, in February 2011. Sources with knowledge of the payment say there is no written contract for it, a horrible absence to explain adequately. The timing is toxic: just weeks after he received the money, at the Uefa congress of 22 March 2011, Platini indicated to Blatter that he would support him – and likely bring the votes of then 53 European football associations – in the Fifa presidential elections later that year.

This payment, revealed four years later as Platini was eyeing a smooth ascent to become Fifa president when Blatter steps down in February, is dubious enough to be the subject of publicly announced criminal proceedings by the Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber. Blatter has been named as a suspect for the payment being possibly “disloyal” – a breach of trust – “criminal mismanagement” or appropriation, and Platini is not in the clear himself. He has been questioned not as a witness, as Uefa stated at first, but as “a person asked to provide information”, a middle status in Swiss law between an accused and an innocent party.

Fifa’s ethics committee, which has suspended both men for 90 days pending its own investigation, will also take in the potentially much simpler issue, that this £1.35m passing between the two football chiefs created a conflict of interest, “actual or potential”.

Europe’s football associations, gathered for an emergency meeting at the wooden lodge-style offices Platini likes to call “the house of football”, seem to have struggled with the clear thinking the tranquil lakeside setting was designed to facilitate. Perhaps startled by the scale of mishap which has befallen Platini, and their plan to become dominant through his presidency of an imploded Fifa, they focused on events nearest to the front of their eyes.

Hence the call for Fifa’s ethics committee – whose independence Infantino questioned, perhaps unwisely, by emphasising his trust in CAS – to get on so quickly with determining the issues. That includes Platini’s and Blatter’s appeals to CAS against their suspensions, which will soak up more of everybody’s time.

Uefa decided it does not want the Fifa election delayed from 26 February, which seems a reckless waste of an opportunity to take stock and rally behind an independent reform process and, very likely, a new candidate for president. The fault line of all football politics seems to have run through that meeting in Nyon: men nestled in positions they angled for years to attain naturally press on with power politics, not reforms independent of them.

So Uefa’s position still holds out a hope that Platini will be cleared of everything, in record time. The 2m Swiss francs he was paid on top of his 300,000 Swiss francs salary could, they seem to think, be found in a month’s time to have been wholly legitimate. And the timing of the payment established to have caused no conflict of interest with Platini’s duty to lead Uefa independently, including into a Fifa presidential election for which Blatter was a candidate.

Yet even if that all comes to pass, the £1.35m Platini was paid will still be subject to Swiss criminal proceedings. That would leave the possibility of this summer in Zurich being re-run, Platini sailing on to election as Fifa president, with the risk of arrest hanging over him in the plush hotels if his status in the investigation should change. Perhaps Uefa’s FAs should adopt the same bullying tone with Lauber, tell him to hurry up too.

Stepping back from all this hideous detail, the sight of Infantino, who is more accustomed to technocratic PowerPoint presentations about the merits of Uefa’s financial fair play, now discussing a president and football legend, Platini, suspended and under investigation so close to a Fifa clean-up election, was awful in itself. This is so far from where Uefa wanted to be, and an instinct underlying its flawed thinking is right: the sooner it is all over, the better for everybody, and for the house of football.



http://www.theguardian.com/football/...atini-fifa-ban
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