Was Platini swayed by payment?

LONDON • Michel Platini indicated at Uefa's congress in March 2011, weeks after he was paid two million Swiss francs (S$2.9 million) by Fifa on Sepp Blatter's authority, that he would back the latter's candidacy in that year's Fifa presidential elections.

Although no statement was made at the congress, sources close to the discussions said Platini resolved to support Blatter, rather than the rival candidate, the Qatari Mohamed Hammam.

Blatter is understood to have promised Platini at the congress that, if he won the election, it would be his final term as president. That would have left this year potentially clear for Platini to stand without having to rival Blatter. If Hammam had won in 2011, the Qatari could have been a successful incumbent this year seeking a second term.

Platini's support as Uefa president was crucial to influence the presidential votes of Uefa's then 53 national football associations.

The timing of Platini's decision to support Blatter is likely to be central to the Fifa ethics committee investigation into whether the payment of the money created an "actual or potential conflict of interest".

The committee has suspended Platini for 90 days pending its investigation.

Uefa's executive committee and representatives of its now 54 European associations were set to meet in Nyon yesterday to consider backing Platini's bid for the Fifa presidency.

Hours earlier, Prince Ali Al Hussein of Jordan formally submitted his candidature to be Fifa president, pledging to restore the reputation of world football's scandal-ridden governing body.

"This time of crisis at Fifa is an opportunity for positive change," he said in a statement.

"Many good ideas have emerged in the current discussion over Fifa's future. A better future will only come if ideas turn into action - and that will only happen if Fifa has the right leadership."

The Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, has initiated criminal proceedings into the payment, questioning Blatter as a suspect for "criminal mismanagement" or "appropriation" and Platini as "a person providing information".

Article 19 of Fifa's ethics code states that all football officials "shall avoid any situation that could lead to conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest arise if persons bound by this code have, or appear to have, private or personal interests that detract from their ability to perform their duties with integrity in an independent and purposeful manner".

Blatter and Platini have denied any wrongdoing.

Platini was urged by some, including Hammam, to stand as a rival to Blatter in 2011 but decided not to. The money was paid in February 2011. Then on March 18, 2011, Hammam announced he would stand. Just four days later, Hammam and Blatter attended the Uefa congress in Paris, where Platini is understood to have privately agreed to back Blatter.

In May 2011, Platini and Uefa's executive committee declared support for Blatter, and urged national associations to vote for him. Ultimately, Blatter won an uncontested election when Hammam pulled out following corruption allegations.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2015, with the headline 'Was Platini swayed by payment?'. Print Edition | Subscribe