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Blatter protests innocence after FIFA appeal hearing

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter maintains he is innocent of charges relating to a “disloyal payment” to Michel Platini following an appeal hearing into his eight-year ban from football-related activity this week.

Blatter’s appeal took place in Zurich on Tuesday, a day after suspended UEFA president Platini’s, with the pair subject to eight-year bans for several breaches of FIFA Code of Ethics violations.

A payment of two million Swiss francs (£1.3million) from FIFA – authorised by Blatter – to the Frenchman in February 2011 is at the centre of the issue, although both men deny wrongdoing.

Blatter and Platini are accused of breaches relating to offering and accepting gifts and other benefits, conflicts of interests, loyalty and general rules of conduct.

But the 79-year-old told RMC on Thursday: “I’m still waiting for the verdict of the appeal board.

“My hearing on Tuesday was special, which contrasted with the hearings before because the appeal board is composed only of persons belonging to FIFA. I was more comfortable with all the members.

“I am the first to be disappointed in this corruption case. But I consider myself responsible for everything. It’s too easy to say that. I cannot be the moral conscience of confederations.

“There was an oral agreement [with Platini] and an oral agreement is also a contract. And a contract is valid throughout its duration.

“It says so in Swiss law. A contract need not be in writing. In 1998, FIFA was a small company. It was just the secretariat. This is not an ethical matter but a matter of accounting. It was just a paid debt. Platini is innocent, like me.”

The apparent verbal agreement between Blatter and Platini was not considered to have any basis in law by the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Commission when they handed out the bans in December.

With FIFA due to elect a long-term successor to Blatter this month, after he stood down last year amid the corruption scandal that rocked the organisation, he added: “I’m not disappointed but I’m sad at the departure I had.

“For 41 years, football has developed and it has never been as good as it is now. I’m happy to have reached the end of my responsibilities. But I can’t separate myself from football and FIFA. I want it to continue to exist.

“Why do I fight again? This is not to reduce the penalty. It’s ridiculous what you reproach me for. You cannot be 41 years in a company without your name being linked to FIFA. So I fight for my reputation and also for FIFA. I want to save FIFA.”

Thu 18 Feb, 2016
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