Opinions divided on Platini's address

Former Uefa president Michel Platini leaving the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland on Aug 25. The three-time European footballer will address the Uefa Congress in Athens today, despite being banned for four years from all footb
Former Uefa president Michel Platini leaving the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland on Aug 25. The three-time European footballer will address the Uefa Congress in Athens today, despite being banned for four years from all football-related activities. PHOTO: REUTERS

German boss not in favour of Fifa decision to permit Frenchman to speak at Uefa Congress

PARIS • World football's governing body Fifa has given the green light for disgraced former Uefa president Michel Platini to address today's Uefa congress in Athens, triggering anger in Germany.

A source close to Platini, currently serving a four-year ban, said last week that the French legend would attend the meeting of European football's governing body, when the Uefa executive committee will vote on his successor.

"The Fifa ethics committee has informed Uefa that Michel Platini will be allowed to address the 12th Extraordinary Uefa Congress in Athens," Uefa said in a statement. "A request for Mr Platini's attendance had been recently made by Uefa and we welcome this decision."

But the decision did not sit well with Reinhard Grindel, president of the German football federation.

"The Uefa Congress should showcase the programme of its new president and not the mistakes of his predecessor," Grindel said. "I would have preferred Michel Platini not to have put in an appearance.

"This Congress must focus on the future, not the past."

The former French international, a three-time European Footballer of the Year, is a key figure in the scandal that brought down Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

MAKING HIS PITCH

We need an honest football leader. No power-hungry politician.

MICHAEL VAN PRAAG (above), Dutch football administrator, who will be running against Aleksander Ceferin for the Uefa presidency.

Platini received a suspect US$2 million (S$2.7 million) payment that Blatter authorised in 2011.

Fifa has said the payment amounted to an ethics violation and has suspended both men for six years.

In Athens, the 55 Uefa member federations will vote between two candidates to succeed Platini - lawyer Aleksander Ceferin of Slovenia and veteran Dutch administrator Michael van Praag.

Ceferin, 48, has the heavyweight support of more than 20 federations including Germany, France, Portugal and Russia, according to the Slovenian Football Association.

England, Belgium and the Netherlands are 68-year-old van Praag's leading backers.

"We need an honest football leader. No power-hungry politician," van Praag said in a tweet last week in reaction to a Swedish media report that suggested his rival had promised Nordic countries they could stage a future European Championship.

Strongly denying the report, Ceferin told PA Sport that van Praag was "making up stories trying to pollute the pre-election time".

The two have made promises to improve transparency and governance at the confederation which earns more than the world body Fifa from its flagship tournaments, the annual Champions League and the quadrennial Euro spectacular.

But the absence of Platini this year has seen a growing challenge to the Champions League from within Europe and outside, with the Chinese conglomerate Wanda reportedly ready to finance a rival tournament.

Neither Ceferin nor van Praag has said publicly how they would steady the ship.

Insiders say that the new incumbent will need the courage to stand up to the big clubs if he wants to keep the traditional pyramid system, where teams can rise and fall according to their sporting results.

Lars-Christer Olsson, head of the umbrella group representing 24 European leagues, said that sponsors would be likely to shy away from a sport which is splintered.

"The last thing they want is a split in the market," he said. "I think Uefa was afraid for no real reason."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Opinions divided on Platini's address'. Print Edition | Subscribe