Platini to stay in race for FIFA presidency

Paris, September 30

UEFA president Michel Platini has insisted he will stay in the race for the FIFA presidency despite being named in a Swiss criminal investigation into the world football body.

The French football legend told AFP on Tuesday he had done “nothing wrong” and defended a $2 million payment approved by FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Platini, who had been favourite to win an election for the FIFA president in February, spoke out amid reports that he and Blatter will soon be put under investigation by FIFA’s independent ethics committee.

“I am still determined to present myself as a candidate for the FIFA presidency so I can introduce the governance reforms that are necessary to restore the order and credibility to world football,” Platini told AFP. Swiss prosecutors say they are investigating whether Blatter approved a “disloyal” two million Swiss franc ($2 million) payment to Platini, to FIFA’s prejudice.

The money was paid for work carried out between 1998 and 2002 but the payment was only made in 2011. The Frenchman, who has led UEFA since 2007, said the delay was because FIFA could not afford to pay him earlier. “There is no doubt about my integrity. I have done nothing wrong. That is why I have made myself fully available to cooperate with the relevant bodies and authorities to clarify whatever may be necessary,” he said.

Platini said all of the money received was “declared to the pertinent authorities.” The 60-year-old Frenchman said he did not fear a suspension by the FIFA ethics committee. “I am calm and totally serene since I don’t have reasons to be concerned,” said Platini, who said he had received messages of support from around the world. “I have known for a long time that I would be the target of many unfounded attacks and I am conscious that these attacks will continue until the FIFA elections take place,” he added.

Switzerland on Tuesday ordered the extradition of another fallen FIFA official and the world body’s ethics committee ordered a life ban from football against former vice-president Jack Warner. But South Korean tycoon Chung Mong-Joon, a rival candidate to Platini in the FIFA race, called for a task force to run FIFA because of the “total meltdown” at the world body.

He said FIFA should organise an “emergency congress” to set up the task force leadership. “The most urgent task at hand is to root out corruption from within FIFA,” he said. “Justice must be served.” FIFA has been in its worse crisis since US prosecutors charged 14 FIFA officials and sports business executives in May over involvement in more than $150 million of bribes.