Michel Platini has decided not to attend his hearing before FIFA’s ethics committee in Zurich, scheduled for Friday, his lawyers told AFP on Wednesday. A statement from the legal representatives of the suspended UEFA president said he chose to boycott the hearing after “the verdict was already announced to the press by a spokesman…going against the presumption of innocence.”
Platini and FIFA president Sepp Blatter are currently serving 90-day bans from all footballing activities after Swiss prosecutors opened a criminal investigation looking partly into a two million Swiss franc (1.8 million euro; $2 million) payment Blatter authorised to Platini in 2011, reportedly for work done a decade earlier.
The provisional ban is due to expire on January 5 but both men risk being banned for life by the tribunal, with a verdict expected on Monday. According to Platini’s lawyers, who will attend the hearing, prosecutors are seeking a lifetime ban against the Frenchman. The penalty sought against Blatter is not known.
Andreas Bantel, spokesman for FIFA’s ethics committee, was quoted by French sports daily L’Equipe as saying that Platini would be sidelined for “several years”. “Suppose even the charge of corruption is not accepted by the chamber, there are many other offences such as a conflict of interest, mismanagement or falsification of accounts,” Bantel was also quoted as saying by l’Equipe before its website story was altered.
Bantel, who has highlighted that he represents only the prosecutors in FIFA’s in-house court, not the judges, told AFP that the French newspaper had published “an unauthorised interview” and his comments had been made in a personal capacity.
Platini’s lawyers responded, saying: “By this decision, Michel Platini wishes to express his indignation at the proceedings that he considers to be purely political and intended to prevent him running for the FIFA presidency.”
The Frenchman’s campaign for the leadership of world football’s governing body has been halted by the ban and he was unable to attend last weekend’s Euro 2016 draw in Paris. FIFA’s ethics court had reaffirmed its integrity earlier on Wednesday after a report appeared in L’Equipe saying that Platini had not yet decided whether to attend his hearing.
A statement from the judgement branch of the FIFA court said “the Ethics Committee will deal with the present case in the same way as with any other procedure independently and in an unbiased manner.”
The statement from the committee’s judges added that a boycott of the hearing by Platini would see him “miss the opportunity to present his points of view vis-à-vis the adjudicatory chamber in person.” In a letter released on Tuesday, Blatter said that he would appear at his hearing set for Thursday. But he also cast doubt on the process, citing the Bantel comments as evidence that the process would not be fair.