NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Monday, December 21, 2015, 7:49 AM
Sepp Blatter leaves after a hearing at the FIFA headquarters on December 17, 2015 in Zurich.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and European soccer chief Michel Platini were handed eight-year ethics suspensions Monday, adding a postscript of disgrace to their long reigns atop the world’s most popular sport.
FIFA’s ethics committee said the two men violated rules governing the offering of gifts and other benefits. In addition to eight-year bans, Blatter and Platini were fined 50,000 Swiss francs and 80,000 Swiss francs, respectively. They can appeal the decisions.
“I’ll be back,” said the 79-year-old Blatter, who in a news conference challenged the committee’s “right to go against the president” of FIFA, which Blatter led from 1998 until earlier this year.
Platini had hoped to replace Blatter in a FIFA election slated for Feb. 26, when the 209-member organization hopes to begin moving past a bribery and corruption scandal that involves criminal charges in the U.S. and a Swiss inquiry into the awarding of World Cup tournaments.
The downfall of Blatter and Platini, two power brokers once thought untouchable, was evidence of a February 2011 transaction in which Blatter steered two million Swiss francs from FIFA to Platini, who commanded UEFA, the confederation of European soccer nations. The payment came amid Blatter’s re-election campaign that year, where Platini backed Blatter.
FIFA’s ethics committee opened proceedings in November and invited Platini and Blatter to defend themselves last week. The committee rejected the explanation that the money was a late payment on a separate agreement the two men had made in 1999.
Michel Platini answers questions upon his arrival to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne.
“Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment,” said FIFA’s ethics committee in a statement. “His assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber.”
Platini has said that he will appeal the decision, callin git a “true mockery,” but both he and Blatter are effectively powerless, and Platini will have no chance to run in the FIFA election to replace Blatter Feb. 26, as he had intended.
UEFA released a statement saying the organization was “extremely disappointed” with the decision to ban Platini, a former player for the French national team.
The inquiry into the 2011 began earlier this year as the Swiss attorney general announced he was opening criminal proceedings against Blatter related to the payment. The Swiss authorities are examining a web of bank accounts that international soccer officials used, allegedly to influence decision makers at FIFA.
The systemic corruption had been brought into the open by an American prosecution that has brought a wave of charges against current and former FIFA members, including Platini’s counterparts at two other regional confederations, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, which govern western hemisphere soccer.