The Independent Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee has suspended FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, along with the association’s general secretary, Jerome Valcke. In the same way as the committee also suspended the European body president, Michel Platini, from office.
The committee which had reviewed the level of involvement of the three individuals into cases of misconduct in FIFA had submitted its finding and subsequently taken the decisions, Wednesday night.
The committee has also appointed Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Camorounian, Issa Hayatou as acting president of FIFA until elections later this year.
A statement by the ethics committee read: “Today, in accordance with Fifa’s Code of Ethics, Joseph S. Blatter was relieved of all his duties as FIFA President following the decision of the Independent Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee to provisionally ban him from all football activities on a national and international level.
“Joseph S. Blatter, for the duration of the 90-day ban, is not allowed to represent FIFA in any capacity, act on the organisation’s behalf, or communicate to media or other stakeholders as a FIFA representative.
“As mandated by article 32 (6) of the Fifa Statutes, Issa Hayatou, as the longest-serving vice-president on Fifa’s Executive Committee, will serve as Acting President of FIFA.”
It was also announced that the Independent Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee issued a provisional 90-day ban for Fifa’s Secretary General, Jérôme Valcke.
This decision follows Fifa’s announcement on 17 September 2015, that the organization had put Jérôme Valcke on leave and released him from his duties effective immediately. On that date, Fifa requested a formal investigation by the Ethics Committee.
All operational business matters will continue to be overseen by Markus Kattner, Acting Secretary General.”
However, reacting, the FIFpro, the union which represents players from around the world, also issued a statement that says they have “little or no confidence in the ability of FIFA to reform from within”. What’s more, they suggest that the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar “lacks credibility”.
“Only a complete governance overhaul involving key stakeholders such as the players and clubs will be sufficient. The new reform Task Force announced by Fifa recently does not meet this criteria.
“FIFPro insists the players are crucial to add much-needed checks and balances, helping Fifa to rid itself of a culture of impropriety, while elevating football to unprecedented levels of transparency, accountability and ultimately maximising the game’s social role and development as both a sport and business.”
Hayatou has been president of African football’s governing body CAF since March 1998.
As suspected, the former Cameroonian 400m and 800m record holder will take over from Blatter with immediate effect.
Sepp Blatter’s controversial 17-year reign as the Fifa president ended, early Thursday, after its ethics committee provisionally banned him for 90 days ahead of the election to decide his successor in February.
Also, Uefa president, Michel Platini , who was the favourite to succeed his mentor-turned-rival until he too become embroiled in corruption allegations, was similarly an identical sanction, dealing a huge blow to his presidential ambitions.
Both Blatter and Platini have been under extreme pressure since the Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, opened a criminal investigation into allegations Swiss mis-sold a World Cup TV rights contract to the disgraced former Fifa official Jack Warner in 2006 and made a “disloyal payment” of £1.3m to Platini in 2011. Blatter and Platini deny any wrongdoing.
The payment, related to a contract that Platini had between 1998 and 2002 to act as an adviser to Blatter, was made in 2011, months before the 79-year-old Swiss was re-elected for a fourth term.
Fifa later said that Blatter had been “relieved of his duties” after four decades at the heart of world football’s governing body and would not be allowed to represent the organisation in any form for its 90 day duration.
In addition, the Fifa secretary general Jérôme Valcke, who has already been put on leave over allegations concerning the sale of World Cup tickets, has now been provisionally banned for 90 days. Fifa said in a statement: “The duration of the bans may be extended for an additional period not exceeding 45 days.”
That would mean the suspensions of all three men would end five days before the 26 February extraordinary congress at which Blatter’s successor is due to be elected. Valcke insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
The former Fifa vice-president Chung Mong-joon, who had threatened to sue Blatter while claiming that he was being targeted on spurious grounds by the ethics committee to force him out of the presidential race, has been banned for six years and fined £67,000. “The bans come into force immediately,” said Fifa.
Blatter’s personal lawyers, Lorenz Erni and Richard Cullen, said the ethics committee had not followed its own procedures. “The ethics committee based its decision on a misunderstanding of the actions of the attorney general in Switzerland, which has opened an investigation but brought no charge against the President,” they said. “In fact, the prosecutors will be obliged by law to dismiss the case if their investigation, barely two weeks old, does not establish sufficient evidence.”
The move by the ethics committee represents the latest stage in the slow-motion collapse of the Fifa house of cards since US prosecutors sent the organisation spiralling into crisis in May, though the extent to which Fifa remains mired in chaos is reflected in the fact that Issa Hayatou was once censured by the International Olympic Committee over bribery claims, which he denied, and recently changed the statutes of the Confederation of African Football to allow him to retain the presidency he has held since 1988.
According to Uefa’s statutes, the immediate replacement for Platini will be the longstanding Spanish FA chief Ángel María Villar-Llona, who also remains under investigation by the Fifa ethics committee for failing to cooperate with Michael Garcia’s investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
Platini had earlier released a statement criticising an “unacceptable” leak of his probable suspension that he described as “essentially an attempt to damage my reputation”.
He added: “I have always acted and expressed myself with honesty, courage and candour, as I feel that this is my moral duty. If what is being reported regarding the intentions of the investigatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee is indeed true, I will stop at nothing to ensure that the truth is known. Nobody should be in any doubt as to my determination to achieve that objective.”
Blatter was re-elected in May days after United States prosecutors alleged a “World Cup of fraud” in a 164-page indictment and charged 14 individuals, including nine current or former Fifa executives, with a series of offences. Days later he promised to stand down in February 2016 and has repeatedly reiterated his desire to remain in post until then.
Blatter is technically free to return in January or February, depending on whether the extra 45 days is invoked, before the extraordinary congress he has called on 26 February to decide his successor.
Platini had submitted his papers early on Thursday morning to stand as a candidate for the Fifa presidency, including the five nominations required, but his hopes of succeeding Blatter appear to have been dealt a terminal blow.
He technically remains a candidate but it is unclear whether he will be able to pass the integrity check those standing must undergo.
Platini is expected to appeal against the suspension to the Fifa Appeals Committee in the next two days. Beyond that, he could go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The investigatory arm of Fifa’s ethics committee is headed by the Swiss Cornel Borbely and the adjudicatory arm is chaired by the German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert.
The enmity between Platini, who helped the Fifa president to power in 1998 and remained a close advisor thereafter, and Blatter has become increasingly bitter in recent months.
The Uefa president backed Prince Ali, the Jordanian Royal who stood against Blatter in May, and then announced he would seek to succeed the 79-year-old Swiss himself.
If Platini and Chung are ruled out of the race to succeed Blatter, the only remaining declared candidate is Prince Ali.
However, the Bahrainian Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman will now be considering his options. The South African Tokyo Sexwale and former Brazilian international Zico are also considering whether to stand.
But the new wave of chaos enveloping Fifa HQ, currently effectively being run by advisors from law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan under the direction of acting secretary general Markus Kattner, will also lead to new calls for the presidential elections to be postponed.
Campaigners, backed by four major US sponsors who on Friday called for Blatter to go now, want to see a truly independent reform process that would offer a clean break from the past.
Longer term, it is the criminal investigations by the US Department of Justice and the Swiss attorney general’s office that will decide the fate of many of those entwined with Fifa corruption down the decades.
Both Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber and the US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, have vowed to continue their investigations as those arrested in May battle extradition.
Lauber has said the Swiss investigation, which is trawling through 11TB of data and 121 suspect banking transactions, is “not even at half time”. Lynch has promised more arrests.
Earlier this week, Blatter said the Swiss investigation was outrageous. “This is just an investigation, not an indictment,” he told the German magazine Bunte. “I will fight until 26 February. For myself. For Fifa. I am convinced that evil will come to light and good will prevail.”