ZURICH • Outgoing Fifa president Joseph "Sepp" Blatter and European football boss Michel Platini have both vowed to appeal against their respective eight-year bans imposed by the world football body's ethics committee yesterday.
The sport's two most powerful men were banned from the sport for ethics violations, leaving the global game leaderless as it struggles with a swirl of corruption cases.
The pair had been suspended in October while an investigation was carried out into a 2 million Swiss franc (S$2.8 million) payment that Fifa made to Mr Platini in 2011, with Mr Blatter's approval.
The decision means Mr Blatter's 17 years at the helm of The Beautiful Game will end in disgrace, and spells the end of Mr Platini's hopes of replacing the 79-year-old in a presidential election in February.
The Swiss, who spent four decades at Fifa, came out swinging, holding a press conference to tell reporters that he was sorry only that the president of Fifa was being treated as a "punching ball". "I will fight for me and I will fight for Fifa," said a defiant Mr Blatter, unshaven and with a plaster on his cheek.
He said Fifa's ethics committee had no right to relieve him of his duties and he would challenge the decision in Fifa's Appeals Committee and, if necessary, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne and in the Swiss courts.
Mr Blatter and Mr Platini argued that the payment followed from a verbal agreement they made in 1998, and concerned work Mr Platini did for Fifa between 1998 and 2002.
The committee said it had not found evidence that the payment, made at a time when Mr Blatter was seeking re-election, constituted a bribe, which meant the men were spared potential life bans.
But it said the transaction had nevertheless lacked transparency and presented a conflict of interest. "By failing to place Fifa's interests first and abstain from doing anything which could be contrary to Fifa's interests, Mr Blatter violated his fiduciary duty to Fifa," said a statement.
The committee concluded that his actions ultimately demonstrated "an abusive execution of his position as president of Fifa".
It also said Mr Platini's argument that there had been an oral agreement for the payment had not been convincing, and he, too, had abused his position as a Fifa vice-president and executive committee member. Mr Platini, like Mr Blatter, has denied wrongdoing and declared that he "will fight this to the end".
"The decision is no surprise to me. The procedure initiated against me by Fifa's ethics committee is a pure masquerade," he said, adding that he will also turn to the CAS and ultimately seek damages in civil proceedings. "It has been rigged to tarnish my name by bodies I know well and who, for me, are bereft of all credibility or legitimacy."
Mr Blatter was fined 50,000 Swiss francs, and Mr Platini, 60 - who boycotted the hearing, saying it had "already judged" him - was fined 80,000 Swiss francs.
Uefa said it was disappointed with the ruling and "supports Michel Platini's right to a due process and the opportunity to clear his name". Until his suspension, the Frenchman had been the front runner to succeed Mr Blatter.
Following yesterday's ruling, Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation, is now the new favourite to succeed Mr Blatter, followed by Jordan's Prince Ali Al Hussein and Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino of Switzerland.