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UEFA backs Platini's right to defend himself

16 october 2015, 13:15
0
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino gives a press conference following a UEFA Executive meeting. ©AFP
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino gives a press conference following a UEFA Executive meeting. ©AFP

UEFA said it supports suspended president Michel Platini's right to defend himself against corruption allegations following an emergency meeting in Nyon, Switzerland on Thursday, AFP reports.

However, European football's governing body stopped short of expressing categoric support for their underfire president.

"We support Michel Platini's right to a due process and a fair trial and to the opportunity to clear his name," said secretary general Gianni Infantino at a press conference following the emergency meeting.

"We strongly call on all instances involved in the current process: FIFA's Ethics Committee, FIFA's Appeal Committee and ultimately the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to work very rapidly to ensure that there is a final decision on the merits of the case by, at the latest, mid-November 2015."

Platini was not allowed to attend the meeting, which was chaired by vice-president Angel Maria Villar Llona, but Infantino said the 60-year-old Frenchman's lawyer made a presentation both to the UEFA executive committee in the morning and the full emergency meeting in the afternoon to explain Platini's situation.

Infantino also said that UEFA's 54 member associations were unanimous in agreeing that FIFA's congress in February, where a successor to suspended president Sepp Blatter will be elected, should not be delayed.

Platini's hopes of succeeding Blatter have been hit by his 90-day suspension from all football-related activities as he is unable to campaign.

Infantino said there was support for Platini the man, but made no mention of his FIFA candidacy or his UEFA presidency.

"There were different opinions expressed but everyone supports Mr Platini as a person for all that he's doing as UEFA president and for European football in his career," added Infantino.

"There was really a big support on this fact. More generally, as well, there was really the wish of not condemning anyone based on media articles.

"The truth at the end will be the truth decided by the independent body. There is an independent body recognised by all sports associations and it is CAS."

Platini, a frontrunner to take over from Blatter, is being investigated over a $2 million (1.8 million euros) payment made to him by Blatter in 2011 for consultancy work performed years earlier.

Blatter, who is also suspended as part of a Swiss criminal investigation, has already said he will step down as FIFA president, a post he has held since 1998.

- no delay -
The vote to succeed him takes place at a FIFA Congress on February 26 next year, a date which Infantino insisted should be respected and not postponed.

"The feeling of everyone is that the decision to host the FIFA Congress on February 26 should and has to stand," said Infantino.

"It's absolutely crucial for the credibility for this whole process to make sure there's a legitimate, elected president of FIFA who can take over this organisation and that everything is cleared up very quickly so everyone can and move on."

Infantino urged the relevant bodies, the FIFA ethics and appeal committees and CAS, not to let the whole affair drag on.

"As long as there's a quick, final decision to close all the speculations and opinions of everyone, we can turn the page and move on to other things and ensure UEFA's reputation is not affected by this," he added.

Infantino said that Platini had already submitted his candidacy for FIFA's top post and that it would not be withdrawn unless a final decision by CAS goes against him.

However, the secretary general did admit that discussions would take place about the possibility of supporting another candidate.

"It's something that will be discussed by UEFA representatives with members of other confederations, as we've done in the past, and we'll see if another candidate from another confederation or another European comes up.

"We will see from the discussions, it's a matter of respect for other confederations as well; it's not always right for Europe to have the lead on everything."

Although there was speculation that UEFA would nominate an interim or acting president, Infantino explained that UEFA's statutes did not require such a move as the senior vice-president -- in this case Spaniard Villar Llona -- merely assumes the president's functions.

Meanwhile, acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou pledged to restore "public trust" in the scandal-hit world football body on Thursday.

The veteran Cameroonian, 69, who is boss of the African federation, has taken over as interim FIFA chief from Blatter.

"It's certainly an unprecedented situation for FIFA," said Hayatou on his first full day in the post. 

"But we remain focused on the necessary reform process, the presidential election and on supporting the current investigations. 

"To restore public trust is a crucial objective. It is essential that FIFA carries on its mission of developing the game and staging international tournaments."


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