The former heads of FIFA and UEFA are facing their day in court in Switzerland after being indicted on fraud charges and other offences.
The controversial Sepp Blatter, and former France international Michel Platini, will both be hauled before the judge after it was alleged that the former arranged for the latter to receive an unlawful payment of £1.5 million.
It has not yet been specified what the payment was for, although many in football have accused both Blatter and Platini of impropriety in the past. They have already been forced to leave their roles following the publication of a FIFA ethics committee report, which found both guilty of wrongdoing and banned them from the sport for eight years.
Prosecutors claim the payment is an indication of major fraud committed by the FIFA chief, and if jurors agree both Blatter and Platini could face jail time.
After six years of ongoing investigations, the arrests bring something of a conclusion to the proceedings, and with FIFA in the grip of a wide-ranging corruption scandal and subsequent clean-up act, its most significant figurehead yet in Blatter could be facing a spell behind bars.
A Gentleman’s Agreement
The ‘disloyal’ payment made by Blatter to Platini has been described as ‘abusive execution’ of their power, and reportedly revolved around a gentleman’s agreement that the pair made more than 20 years ago.
The Frenchman started working as an aide to Blatter back in 1999, and they claim they had a verbal agreement – which is legal under Swiss law – for the payment to later be made, even though it was never documented in writing.
That eventually came, weirdly, some 12 years later when Platini lobbied Blatter to push through the bank transfer for his backdated salary payment – a request granted by FIFA.
The investigating ethics committee concluded that while there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to call the payment a bribe, it was still a clear breach of protocol – both were banned from all football-related duties for the best part of a decade.
For Blatter, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and he had no real choice but to step down.
Allegations of impropriety dogged the final years of the octogenarian’s reign as supremo of football’s major governing body. His friendship with Jack Warner, who faced a number of corruption and bribery allegations, has seen Blatter implicated in fraud scandals too – he has always maintained his innocence.
He was re-elected for a fifth term in 2015, but stood down just days later in the wake of an FBI investigation which saw 13 high-ranking FIFA officials arrested in dawn raids on their hotel suites in Zurich that same year. US authorities charged 39 people within senior positions in football with accepting more than £130 million in bribes for voting on TV and commercial partnerships.
Suspicious World Cup Bids
Ever wondered how Russia and Qatar were awarded the World Cups in 2018 and 2022? Ongoing investigations by Swiss and US authorities are looking into whether FIFA officials –including the president of Conmebol, Nicolas Leoz – accepted bribes to vote for those countries as hosts.
And then there’s that man Warner again, who allegedly accepted £4 million in bribes to an offshore shell company to vote for Russia’s bid prior to the 2018 World Cup.
All of which happened on Blatter’s watch, and many claim that he was indeed the main orchestrator of it all. When his day of destiny in court comes, he’ll finally have a chance to reveal all.