ZURICH (TIP): The leadership of world football’s governing body plunged into chaos on Thursday, as three of the game’s most powerful figures, including FIFA president, Sepp Blatter were suspended amid an investigation by the Swiss authorities into suspected corruption.
In addition to Blatter, Michel Platini, who is a FIFA vice president and the head of European soccer’s governing body, and FIFA’s secretary general, Jerome Valcke, who was already on disciplinary leave, were “provisionally banned” from the sport. The suspensions take effect immediately.
“The grounds for these decisions are the investigations that are being carried out by the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee,” FIFA said in a statement.
FIFA will now be run by an interim president, Issa Hayatou, who is the Cameroonian leader of African soccer’s governing body and the most senior FIFA vice president. Hayatou, however, was reprimanded in 2011 by the International Olympics Committee’s ethics commission after he admitted to receiving payments from a marketing company, which was, in the commission’s view, a conflict of interest. Hayatou said that
“extraordinary circumstances” led to his elevation in power and promised that he would not seek the FIFA presidency permanently in February. “I myself will not be a candidate for that position,” he said.
It was not immediately clear how Thursday’s suspensions will affect the upcoming special presidential election. Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, who lost to Blatter in May’s election, replaced Platini as the odds-on favourite to be the next president by several bookmakers.
A fourth executive, the former FIFA vice president Chung Mong-joon, was barred for six years and fined 100,000 Swiss francs, or about $103,000, on Thursday. Chung, a South Korean billionaire whose family heads the Hyundai conglomerate, had, like Platini, been a candidate to replace Blatter. But he has been found guilty of infringing FIFA’s ethics code in connection with the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Platini, who had been seen as the favourite to replace Blatter, filed his paperwork to officially become a candidate earlier Thursday but it is unclear whether he will be permitted to stand. The sanctions for all four men were imposed by FIFA’s independent ethics committee. Richard Cullen and Lorenz Erni, lawyers for Blatter, released a statement shortly after the punishments were announced criticizing the process by which the ethics committee reached its decision and promising to contest it.
The suspensions for Blatter, Platini and Valcke can be renewed for an additional 45 days after the initial 90, and it is believed that they will require a complete separation from FIFA, where Blatter has worked in various roles since 1975. In a statement, FIFA said that Blatter “is not allowed to represent FIFA in any capacity, act on the organization’s behalf, or communicate to media or other stakeholders as a FIFA representative.” According to a person close to Mr. Blatter, the president may dispute whether that prohibits him from going to his office each day.
The suspensions leave FIFA and UEFA in disarray. David Gill and Wolfgang Niersbach, members of FIFA’s executive committee, called for an emergency meeting. All 54 member nations of UEFA are also expected to have their own summit possibly next week.