Blatter, Platini risk suspension in ethics probe, Hayatou in line to lead FIFA

Michel PlatiniThe future of embattled FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, and his heir-apparent, Michel Platini, was in play at the weekend, as they faced scrutiny by the football world body’s ethics committee that could end with suspension, reports AFP.

Reports say African football chief, Issa Hayatou, who is the highest ranked FIFA vice president, would be compelled to replace Blatter temporarily if the Swiss is suspended.

Ethics Committee spokesman, Andreas Bantel, said he could not comment on individual cases, and refused to confirm reports that the committee had opened a probe against the two most powerful men in football. But he emphasised that “if there is an initial suspicion, the Investigatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee initiates formal proceedings.”

“These rules apply to all people in football regardless of their position or name,” he wrote in an email.
And there is plenty of suspicion to go around with the ethics committee due to meet in the coming days.

In a dramatic escalation of the corruption scandal engulfing world football since May, Swiss investigators swept into FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich on Friday as they turned their attention to Blatter and Platini.

Authorities said a criminal investigation had been opened against Blatter on suspicion of criminal mismanagement, while UEFA chief Platini, who was favourite to win an election to find a successor to Blatter, had come under scrutiny over a murky multi-million-dollar payment.

Swiss prosecutors said on Friday that Blatter was being investigated over the 2005 sale of World Cup television rights to the Caribbean Football Union, then run by his former ally, Jack Warner, a deal which had been “unfavourable for FIFA”.

Blatter, who has denied any wrongdoing, was also suspected of making a “disloyal payment” of $2 million to Platini in February 2011 allegedly made for work the Frenchman carried out for FIFA between 1999 and 2002.

The UEFA chief defended the payment as compensation for work he did under contract with FIFA, but did not explain why it arrived nearly a decade after he completed the work.

Friday’s development came after months of probes following raids in Zurich, which led to the indictment of more than a dozen top officials.

The FIFA ethics committee moved quicker back then, waiting barely 24 hours to suspend the officials snapped up in the May 27 dawn raid.

Media was awash at the weekend with speculation over how long Blatter, 79, could hold on, and if Platini, his 60-year-old former ally, still had a chance to take his place. “If Blatter does not step down himself, he will be suspended within days,” the SonntagsZeitung weekly wrote.

The SonntagsBlick weekly meanwhile said Blatter could step down as early yesterday.

A former FIFA insider, who requested anonymity, however, stressed that a probe by the ethics committee did not necessarily mean Blatter would face suspension. “It is not automatic, neither for him, nor Platini.”

If Platini is suspended he could be barred from standing in the February 26 election to succeed Blatter.
If Blatter were to be suspended, meanwhile, he would likely be forced to quit before the February vote, bringing a rapid and ignominious end to his 17-year FIFA reign. And if Blatter leaves, Camerounian FIFA vice president, Issa Hayatou, would temporarily take the reins.

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