LAUSANNE • Michel Platini quit as the head of European football yesterday after a sports tribunal rejected his final appeal against his ban over a suspect US$2 million (S$2.7 million) payment he received from Fifa.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), where Platini filed an appeal against his ban in February, reduced his suspension from six years to four, saying the penalty initially imposed by Fifa's ethics committee was "too severe."
He was ordered to pay a fine of 60,000 Swiss francs (S$84,600), a reduction of 20,000 francs.
But the court said it was "not convinced" that the US$2 million payment Platini received from Fifa in 2011 was legitimate.
The ruling effectively removed Platini from world football by ensuring his ban runs beyond his current Uefa mandate, which expires in March 2019.
END OF HIS AMBITION TO LEAD FIFA
I am resigning... as Uefa president to pursue my battle in front of the Swiss courts to prove my innocence in this case. Life is always full of surprises: I am henceforth available to experience more of them.
MICHEL PLATINI, after losing his appeal.
The former French international had led Uefa since 2007. He will be barred from presiding over Euro 2016 - he was a key organiser until his formal suspension began in December - which opens in his native France on June 10.
In a statement yesterday, he said: "I take note of today's decision from CAS but I see it as a profound injustice. This decision inflicts a suspension on me that, as luck would have it, stops me from contesting the next election for the Fifa presidency.
"As agreed with the national associations, I am resigning from my duties as Uefa president to pursue my battle in front of the Swiss courts to prove my innocence in this case.
"Life is always full of surprises: I am henceforth available to experience more of them."
The US$2 million payment in question was ordered by Fifa's disgraced ex-president Sepp Blatter.
The pair are the highest-profile casualties in an unprecedented set of corruption scandals in world football, which has seen dozens of long-serving Fifa executives arrested and charged with corruption.
Uefa's executive committee is to meet in Basel on May 18, before the Europa League final, when it will likely begin the process of selecting Platini's replacement, although an election could be put off for several more weeks.
Platini and Blatter have both denied any wrongdoing. They have insisted the US$2 million was part of a legitimate verbal contract in exchange for consulting work performed by Platini.
The CAS ruling noted that Platini had a valid consulting contract with Fifa signed in 1999 - with an agreed salary of 300,000 Swiss francs per year - which terminated in 2002.
But, the US$2 million he received from Fifa in 2011, "was not based on any document established at the time of the contractual relations" and did not match the amount left unpaid at the end of the contract, Cas said.
The ruling from the three-judge panel highlighted that Blatter authorised the payment to Platini four months before a Fifa presidential election.
Blatter was running against Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar and there has been speculation that Blatter approved the payment to Platini to secure the Frenchman's backing in the election.
While the sports tribunal made no judgment on Blatter's motivation for approving the payment, it dismissed Platini's claim that the funds were justified back pay for consulting work performed a decade earlier.
Blatter is still under criminal investigation in Switzerland over the transaction and other aspects of his management of Fifa.
Platini has given evidence in the probe with the status of someone between a suspect and a witness.
Blatter was replaced as Fifa's president in February by Gianni Infantino, Platini's former No. 2 at Uefa, who has vowed to turn the page on an era of unprecedented scandal within world football.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN