Suspended UEFA president Michel Platini, along with suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter, are almost certain to receive long bans from soccer’s governing body by early next week. This has been clear for a while, and is supported by recent reports from those inside the FIFA ethics committee in charge of the investigation. Platini apparently realizes that a straightforward defense is out of the question.
Platini’s way of acknowledging the futility of contesting the ethics committee’s impending sanctions is to refuse to attend a hearing with the group scheduled for Friday. The hearing—concerning a suspicious £1.3 million FIFA payment made by Blatter to Platini that the two men insist was for backpay but which the Swiss authorities who have charged Blatter suspect was made in exchange for Platini’s support of Blatter’s upcoming presidential election—was to be an opportunity for Platini to defend himself against FIFA’s charges of corruption, conflict of interest, and non-cooperation.
Platini has decided against showing up. From the Guardian:
Platini’s lawyers said in a statement: “Michel Platini … has decided not to attend his hearing at the Fifa ethics committee on 18 December 2015 as the verdict of this ethics committee has been announced in the press last weekend by one of its spokespersons, Mr Andreas Bantel, in disregard of all fundamental rights, starting with the presumption of innocence.
“By this decision Michel Platini means to express his deepest indignation with a process he regards as solely political and intended to prevent him from standing for the Fifa presidency.”
The comments Platini is using as pretext here are, as his lawyers point out, from ethics committee spokesman Andreas Bantel. From Fox Soccer:
“Platini will certainly be suspended for several years,” Bantel was quoted as saying by French website L’Equipe.
... “[I]n this case, the question of corruption is well-founded”.
“Suppose even the charge of corruption is not accepted by the chamber, there are many others offenses such as a conflict of interest, mismanagement or falsification of accounts,” said the official.
“All of this is sufficient to suspend Blatter and Platini for several years.”
Platini claims this is evidence that his hearing will be nothing but a show trial, but he misses one crucial fact: Bantel is a spokesman for the investigatory arm of the ethics committee. He is speaking from the equivalent of the prosecution’s side. The adjudicatory branch of the committee is independent of the investigatory branch, and it is the former that will hear and judge what the latter brings them. All Bantel is saying is that the investigators have amassed significant evidence against Platini and he’s confident that, for one charge or another, Platini will be banned for significant time.
Platini’s lawyers know this, of course. His announced boycott isn’t actually to protest any perceived injustice on the part of the committee. In reality, it’s to set up his post-ban gameplan. By loudly protesting now, Platini probably figures he can make the argument to the Court of Arbitration of Sport—the body to which he will almost certainly appeal FIFA’s sanctions—that the committee’s decision violated his due process rights. It’s not likely to work, but it’s an argument.
After that, Platini could theoretically use his lack of attendance at a hearing as evidence that he was railroaded, giving him just enough plausible deniability to allow him to get work somewhere else in the sport, maybe at the club level, and who better than his pals in Qatar at a place like Paris Saint-Germain.
Either way, the point here isn’t actually to protect Platini’s rights or to defend truth and justice. It’s a calculated move betting that at some point down the line, Platini’s name won’t be as radioactive as it could’ve been, and that someone will overlook these transgressions and give him a job. In the criminal and corrupt world of FIFA, a strategy like this qualifies as downright respectable.
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