Football: Opinion divided on bans

Suspended Fifa president Sepp Blatter addresses the media during his press conference after the verdict by the Fifa ethics committee in Zurich yesterday.
Suspended Fifa president Sepp Blatter addresses the media during his press conference after the verdict by the Fifa ethics committee in Zurich yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Eight years a 'death sentence' says Velappan but Spanish FA boss says it's not enough

ZURICH • The two most divisive men in world football continue to divide opinion.

The eight-year bans handed down to disgraced football chiefs Sepp Blatter, 79, and Michel Platini, 60, by the Fifa ethics tribunal received mixed reactions yesterday.

Some felt the heads of Fifa and Uefa had got off lightly, while others criticised the length of the suspensions as too "harsh".

Blatter and Platini were also fined 50,000 Swiss francs (S$70,900) and 80,000 Swiss francs respectively after being found guilty of abusing their positions over a two million Swiss franc payment that was made to the Frenchman.

Former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary Peter Velappan, who occupied that position when Asia hosted its first World Cup in South Korea and Japan in 2002, said the length of the bans was like a "death sentence".

SANCTION TOO HARSH

It's unfortunate that the bribery scandal happened and you can't take away the blame from him either but still, eight years is too harsh. Eight years is like a death sentence.

PETER VELAPPAN, former AFC general secretary

THEY MUST BE STRIPPED OF POWER

The sanction should ensure they can never again exercise power in a sporting institution. They no longer deserve the confidence of the world of football and sportsmen.

JAVIER TEBAS, Spanish Football League president

GAME IS BIGGER THAN CORRUPTION

I'm sure at some point there will be a huge amount of change at Fifa. No matter what corruption is going on at the highest level, it will never be as big as the game itself.

DAVID BECKHAM

PLATINI WAS NAIVE

Platini has got wrapped up with Blatter, he's got too close to him. What an amateurish way this payment has been handled. It makes you feel Platini has been naive.

DAVID BERNSTEIN, former English Football Association chairman

"This is very harsh, especially for Blatter because he dedicated his life to football and Fifa," he said. "It's unfortunate that the bribery scandal happened and you can't take away the blame from him either but still, eight years is too harsh. Eight years is like a death sentence."

The Malaysian backed the pair's record in boosting football in Asia and said that should have been taken into consideration.

"Blatter and Platini are football personalities and you have to look at the contributions they have made to the game," he added. "A one- or two-year ban would have been understandable. This is very unkind. They have both done a lot for the AFC and football."

However, for Spanish Football League president Javier Tebas, the bans should have been longer.

"Eight years, that doesn't seem much to me. Platini's sanction... is due to the fact that they didn't respect the normal Fifa internal procedures," he said.

"Bypassing economic controls is very serious and the sanction should ensure they can never again exercise power in a sporting institution. They no longer deserve the confidence of the world of football and sportsmen."

For English football icon David Beckham, this episode should be used as an opportunity to implement vital reforms in the game.

But the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star remains upbeat about the future.

"I'm sure at some point there will be a huge amount of change at Fifa," he said. "No matter what corruption is going on at the highest level, it will never be as big as the game itself."

Former English Football Association chairman David Bernstein said it would be unfair to include Blatter and Platini into the same bracket. And he said he had little faith in the Fifa court's judgment.

"There's a bit of a kangaroo court feel about some of this. Perhaps more relevant for Platini than Blatter because there's a distinction between the two," he said.

"Blatter has presided over a corrupt organisation for many, many years. The Swiss authorities and US authorities are after him... he'll get what he deserves.

"Platini is very different. He's presided over a very straight organisation. Uefa is not mired by corruption.

"Platini has got wrapped up with Blatter, he's got too close to him. What an amateurish way this payment has been handled. It makes you feel Platini has been naive."

The sentence against the two most powerful men in football stunningly highlighted the troubles faced by the world's most popular sport.

US authorities have charged 39 football officials and sports business executives over more than US$200 million (S$281 million) in bribes for football television and marketing deals.

Swiss prosecutors are in parallel probing Fifa's management and the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'Opinion divided on bans'. Print Edition | Subscribe