Dutchman the next Uefa boss?

Netherlands FA chief van Praag reportedly backed by most European member nations

LONDON • Several European countries are expected to throw their weight behind the Netherlands' Michael van Praag to become the new Uefa president, after a court ruling against Michel Platini raised new questions about the role of senior Fifa officials in the scandal over his US$2 million (S$2.7 million) payment.

Platini on Monday announced that he would resign as president of European football's governing body after failing to overturn his ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which upheld the decision that he was guilty of a conflict of interest but cut his sanction from six to four years.

It effectively brings an end to the 60-year-old Frenchman's career in football administration.

Van Praag, 68, the former Ajax chairman who is head of the Dutch football association, is expected to stand and apparently has the backing of most European countries.

Angel Villar Llona, the combative 66-year-old Spanish FA president, is also set to run, with an election likely to take place in mid-September at a meeting of European football leaders in Athens.

The ruling by the CAS said that it was "not convinced by the legitimacy" of the payment made to Platini by Sepp Blatter, the former Fifa president, in 2011.

It also "noted that Fifa knew of the payment in 2011 but initiated an investigation into Mr Platini's behaviour with the Fifa ethics committee in September 2015 only".

That raises questions about how much some senior officials still working with Fifa knew of the payment and what action they took or failed to take.

Fifa confirmed that Markus Kattner, the acting secretary-general who was financial director at the time, was aware of the payment but that Marco Villiger, the legal director, was not.

A statement said: "Due to his function as finance director, Markus Kattner was of course aware of the payment."

Fifa president Gianni Infantino who opened a meeting of the football body's new council in Mexico City on Monday, lamented his former mentor's downfall.

He was Platini's No. 2 at Uefa before taking over Fifa in February.

"I must respect the decision by the CAS," he said.

"On a personal level, of course I'm very sad about this decision. I've worked with Michel for the last nine years.

"We did some great things in Uefa together and I really want to keep these positive memories."

Asked whether Fifa would seek to recoup the payment, Infantino said: "Decisions have been taken today, it's not the question."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2016, with the headline 'Dutchman the next Uefa boss?'. Print Edition | Subscribe