FIFA president Joseph Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini – international football’s leading administrators – were Thursday provisionally banned from all activities in the game for 90 days.
In further sanctions taken by FIFA’s ethics committee, the governing body’s secretary general Jerome Valcke – relieved by FIFA of his duties last month – was also suspended for 90 days, while South Korean former FIFA vice-president Chung Mong Joon was banned for six years.
The bans on Blatter and Platini by the committee’s adjudicatory chamber follow a Swiss criminal investigation against Blatter launched on September 25.
As part of the investigation Platini was asked to provide information about a payment of 2 million Swiss francs (about 2 million dollars) signed off by Blatter in 2011.
A statement by the ethics committee said the duration of the bans may be extended for an additional period not exceeding 45 days.
A 90-day ban would last until early January, but an extension would also end just before the FIFA extraordinary congress on February 26 to elect a successor to Blatter in Zurich.
As Platini and Chung are two of the three candidates who are so far standing for election – the other is Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan – the elections could be thrown into disarray.
The bans, if confirmed following any appeals, take place with immediate effect and cover “all football activities on a national and international level,” the committee said.
This would therefore also include the draw in Paris on December 12 for Euro 2016, a showcase for UEFA president Platini.
The bans throw up questions on the immediate of running of FIFA. Under FIFA statutes, Issa Hayatou, president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), as the most senior vice-president will take over.
The 69-year Cameroon official has also been linked with corruption involving World Cup rights in the past, allegations he has denied.
Blatter’s right-hand man Valcke had last month already been suspended by FIFA and relieved of all duties until further notice following allegations involving World Cup ticket sales.
Chung’s six-year ban follows an investigation opened in January and “based on findings in the report on the investigation into the bidding process for the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cups,” the committee’s statement said.
He was found guilty of infringing several articles in FIFA’s code of ethics including those covering general rules of conduct, confidentiality and duty of disclosure, cooperation and reporting.
In opening a criminal investigation against Blatter, the Swiss attorney general’s office said Blatter was suspected of a “disloyal payment” to Platini which was “at the expense of FIFA.”
Blatter is also being investigated for a contract he signed with the Caribbean Football Union concerning TV rights which was “unfavourable for FIFA.”
Both Blatter and Platini have denied any wrongdoing.
Shortly before news of the suspensions, Platini issued a statement indicating he would continue running for the FIFA presidency.
He said that news which emerged late Wendesday of the ethics committee’s recommendations was “a deliberate leak” which appeared to come from a FIFA source and was “essentially an attempt to damage my reputation.”
“This morning I submitted the letters of support that are required in order to stand as a candidate for the presidency of FIFA,” he said.
“As I have always done since 2007, I will fulfil my obligations after consulting UEFA’s 54 member associations, which I will ask to convene shortly in Nyon.”
Platini added: “Over the last few weeks, I have stressed my willingness to cooperate fully with the authorities carrying out the various enquiries in compliance with the strictest procedural rules. FIFA, on the other hand, has clearly flouted those rules.
“I have always acted and expressed myself with honesty, courage and candour, as I feel that this is my moral duty.
“If what is being reported regarding the intentions of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee is indeed true, I will stop at nothing to ensure that the truth is known. Nobody should be in any doubt as to my determination to achieve that objective.
There has been no immediate comment from Platini or Blatter following confirmation of the provisional suspensions.