Michel Platini’s suspension from performing any football-related activity has been reduced from six years to four, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has announced.
Frenchman Platini, who continues to deny any wrongdoing, has been in Lausanne to contest his sanction, which was related to a $2 million (£1.3m) “disloyal payment” made by then FIFA chief Sepp Blatter in 2011.
The original eight-year ban was reduced to six by a FIFA appeals panel with Platini taking his case to CAS in February.
In their ruling, CAS also reduced his fine from CHF 80,000 to CHF 60,000, but maintained he was right to be punished and had taken into account “the absence of any repentance” and the impact on FIFA’s reputation.
CAS said its three-man panel had “unanimously determined” that Platini had obtained an “undue advantage” and that there had been “a conflict of interest” in breach of two FIFA Code of Ethics articles, saying it was “not convinced by the legitimacy” of the payment.
However, it still felt the suspension handed down was “too severe”, prompting the reduction in his ban.
FIFA was also criticised by CAS for not initiating an investigation into the payment until September 2015, even though the payment had been made in 2011.
The statement read: “The CAS arbitration procedure was submitted to an arbitral Panel composed of Prof. Luigi Fumagalli, President (Italy), Prof. Jan Paulsson (France) and Prof. Bernard Hanotiau (Belgium). A hearing took place at the CAS headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland on 29 April 2016.
“The arbitral Panel noted the existence of a valid employment contract between Michal Platini and FIFA, signed in 1999 and including an annual salary of CHF 300,000. Such contract was performed by the parties and terminated in 2002 when Mr. Platini became a member of the FIFA Executive Committee. It was not until 1 February 2011 – 4 months prior to the FIFA presidential elections and at a moment when Sepp Blatter and Mohamed Bin Hammam were both still candidates to the election – that FIFA paid the amount of CHF 2,000,000 in favour of Mr. Platini.
“Mr Platini justified such payment as back pay, explaining that he had orally agreed with Mr Blatter in 1998, when the future FIFA President was negotiating with him, to an annual salary of CHF 1,000,000. The Panel, however, was not convinced by the legitimacy of the CHF 2,000,000 payment, which was only recognized by Mr Platini and Mr Blatter, and which occurred more than 8 years after the end of his work relations, was not based on any document established at the time of the contractual relations and did not correlate with the alleged unpaid part of his salary (CHF 700,000 x 4 = CHF 2,800,000). Moreover, the Panel took note that Mr Platini benefitted from the extension of a pension plan to which he was not entitled.
“Consequently, the CAS arbitrators unanimously determined that Mr Platini obtained an undue advantage in breach of Article 20 of the FIFA Code of Ethics. Furthermore, the Panel also found Mr Platini guilty of a conflict of interest in breach of Article 19 of the FIFA Code of Ethics.
“Based on such findings, the CAS Panel considered that the suspension imposed by FIFA on Mr. Platini was nevertheless too severe and therefore decided to reduce such suspension to 4 years, which corresponds to the duration of a presidential term. The CAS Panel was of the opinion that a severe sanction could be justified in view of the superior functions carried out by Mr Platini (FIFA Vice-President and UEFA President), the absence of any repentance and the impact that this matter has had on FIFA’s reputation.
“Contrary to the decisions challenged, the Panel considered that Mr Platini could not be sanctioned for the violation of Articles 13 (general rules of conduct) and 15 (loyalty) of the FIFA Code of Ethics as the application of Articles 19 and 20 of the FIFA Code of Ethics (special rules) excluded the application of Articles 13 and 15 (general rules) irrespective of the Panel’s findings that Mr Platini’s behaviour was not ethical or loyal.
“In addition, the Panel noted that FIFA knew of the CHF 2,000,000 payment in 2011 but initiated an investigation into Mr Platini’s behaviour with the FIFA Ethics Committee in September 2015 only.
“Finally, the Panel also reduced the fine imposed on Mr Platini in a similar proportion and set it at CHF 60,000. The arbitral award with the grounds will be notified to the parties concerned in a few weeks.”