LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Dec 5 – Sport’s highest court on Monday rejected the appeal of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter against a six year ban signalling the end of his efforts to clear his name.
The 80-year-old former football powerbroker was ousted over a two million Swiss franc ($2 million/1.8 million euro) payment to UEFA boss Michel Platini which the Court of Arbitration for Sport called an “undue gift” that could not be justified.
Blatter called the verdict “incomprehensible” but also acknowledged that he has come to the end of the road in his fight to clear his name.
“I will not be appealing in a Swiss court,” he told AFP, turning his back on what would have been his last legal recourse.
Earlier, however, he maintained that guilt had not been proven.
“It is difficult to follow it, because the principle of jurisdiction -– culpability has to be proven by prosecution -– was not applied,” Blatter said in a statement.
“Nevertheless I look back with gratitude to all the years, in which I was able to realise my ideals for football and serve FIFA,” added the Swiss official widely condemned by critics during his 18 years as head of the world football body.
The payment made to Platini in 2011 for work carried out a decade earlier without any contract led to the downfall of both men. Platini had been expected to take over from Blatter, but has also seen multiple appeals rejected by tribunals and courts.
Blatter could face more trouble as he remains under investigation by Swiss prosecutors over the payment and for the way in which the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively.
– ‘Undue gift’ –
Blatter and Platini said they had an “oral contract” for the payment. This was firmly dismissed by the CAS which also said Blatter must pay a 50,000 Swiss franc fine.
The tribunal ruled that a written employment contract established between Platini and FIFA in 1999 voided any oral agreement concluded between Blatter and Platini in 1998 allowing for a one million Swiss franc a year salary.
“Accordingly, by approving a payment of two million Swiss francs to Mr Platini in 2011 for the balance of work carried out under the alleged oral agreement, Mr Blatter breached the FIFA code of ethics.”
It said “the payment amounted to an undue gift as it had no contractual basis.
“The panel further found that Mr Blatter unlawfully awarded contributions to Mr Platini under the FIFA executive committee retirement scheme which also amounted to an undue gift.”
Blatter, who still uses his FIFA limousine, and Platini have now both had all appeals rejected by FIFA’s ethics court and CAS. Blatter’s suspension has been reduced from eight years to six and Platini from eight to four years.
French football legend Platini has taken a case to the Swiss courts and Blatter could have done the same. But the civil courts are reluctant to get involved in international disputes, according to experts, and Blatter has decided against that option.
FIFA and UEFA meanwhile have launched campaigns to cleanse their tainted images under new leaders who have promised reform.
FIFA is now led by Gianni Infantino who has embarked on major changes at the world football body including replacing many staff employed in the Blatter era.
FIFA said only that it had “taken note” of the CAS verdict.
Aleksander Ceferin has taken over at UEFA also promising a new era of transparency.
The air of corruption has not completely cleared however.
More details of the commercial underbelly of sport are expected when US courts start sentencing 39 football and marketing officials accused of involvement in more than $200 million of bribes for television and other commercial contracts.
Blatter’s air of invincibility ended when Swiss police raided a Zurich hotel in May 2015 to detain seven FIFA officials who are now among the defendants in the United States. The arrests came on the eve of his reelection as FIFA president and he was suspended months later.