Sepp Blatter was sorry for damage caused to FIFA by the eight-year football bans handed to himself and Michel Platini but continued to vehemently protest his innocence at a Monday media conference.
Less than two hours after a statement confirmed the adjudicatory chamber of the Independent Ethics Committee’s punishments relating to a FIFA payment of two million Swiss francs (£1.3million), authorised by Blatter to UEFA president Platini in February 2011, the 79-year-old outgoing FIFA chief gave an impassioned and often erratic briefing in Zurich.
He stood by the legitimacy of a “gentleman’s agreement” with Platini established in 1998 – rejected by the adjudicatory chamber – and outlined his intentions to take an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, while questioning the validity of the punishments under Swiss law.
Nevertheless, he also reflected sorrowfully on the impact of the affair on scandal-hit FIFA.
“To say that it is a good day for me or for FIFA, this would be totally wrong,” Blatter said. “Ladies and gentlemen, let us say that I am really sorry.
“I am sorry that I am still somewhere a punching ball but I am sorry that I am, as president of FIFA, this punching ball and I am sorry for football.
“I am sorry for FIFA, who I have served for 41 years. I am sorry for the 400 plus team members working in FIFA.
“I am also sorry about how I am treated in this world of humanitarian qualities.”
Blatter claimed that people working for FIFA “couldn’t understand why the president is suspended” and cited the strain placed upon his family and his own health by the investigation.
“It has created a lot of collateral damage outside of of FIFA,” he said. “My family were mocked, my daughters and their freinds were mocked, my village was in a crisis.”
The Ethics Committee ruled that there was “no legal basis” for the payment in a written agreement signed by both men on August 25, 1999 and added that the assertion of an oral agreement was “not convincing and rejected by the chamber” – much to Blatter’s surprise following his appearance before FIFA’s ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert on Thursday.
“You can identify me as an optimist,” he said. “Together with a Swiss lawyer, we thought that we had convinced the panel, with Mr Eckert in the chair, about the situation with the payment. We thought that we were in a situation that was clear, with a clean sheet.
Blatter had already announced his intention to stand down after 17 years as FIFA president ahead of an election at February’s congress – the only body he believes has the right to formally remove him from his position.
“I am not ashamed – I regret, but I am not ashamed,” he said. “I am ashamed about the committee’s decision – and that they don’t go to the evidence. I tell you they have no right to go against the president. The president of FIFA can only be relieved of his activities by the FIFA congress.
“At the next congress, the 27 February, before the election of the new president, even suspended I am president and the president must be first relieved of his duties.
“I am a man of principles. I repeat: Never take money you have not earned, pay your debts. Now they are telling me that I tried to buy through Michel Platini, votes for the 2011 elections. No.”
He added: “Today, first of all of all I was very sad. But not anymore. Now I am fighting.”