15 октября 2015 10:59

Platini on tenterhooks ahead of UEFA crisis meeting


Michel Platini will get a strong indication of the level of support from the organisation he heads when UEFA holds its crisis meeting in Nyon on Thursday, AFP reports.

Michel Platini will get a strong indication of the level of support from the organisation he heads when UEFA holds its crisis meeting in Nyon on Thursday, AFP reports.

The 60-year-old Frenchman was suspended for 90 days by FIFA's ethics committee looking into corruption at the global football body.

UEFA intially responded by backing its president but cracks have been appearing and the support appears to be far from unwavering.

German Football Federation (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach gave an interview with German national weekly newspaper Die Zeit in which he claimed that the allegations against Platini could "put him on his knees".

Platini, who is also a FIFA vice-president, is being investigated over a two million Swiss francs ($2 million, 1.8 million euros) payment made to him by FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2011 for consultancy work performed years earlier.

The former France and Juventus star player is not allowed to attend the meeting at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, where the body's 54 member unions will likely discuss their support for Platini.

The 60-year-old has denied any wrongdoing, describing the charges as "farcical" and has appealed against his suspension.

But in a world where mud often sticks, Platini's reputation risks being damaged forever by the accusations.

For some, whether the payment was legitimate or not is less important than the fact it seems to have been kept a secret.

"I was very disappointed when the story of the two million Swiss francs payment emerged," Denmark's Allan Hansen, a UEFA executive committee member, told his country's press.

"It raises a whole host of questions for which we haven't yet had the answers.

"What I hope is that we'll get them on Thursday. Such a (huge) payment requires a contract, and should appear in FIFA's accounts."

The tone coming from the Dutch FA (KNVB) is equally tough.

"Platini must now deliver legal and convincing evidence that he is innocent," Bert Van Oostveen, director of professional football of the KNVB, told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

"If there is no logical explanation for the payment, then I think the KNVB must reconsider its support."

Although Platini is presumed innocent until proven guilty, there is the feeling that a certain amount of confidence has been lost.

Hansen was unequivocal when asked what the lack of such a contract would mean: "Then we would no longer be able to support Platini."

- 'protect UEFA' -
Niersbach said Thursday's meeting would also serve to determine whether or not Platini could maintain his candidature to replace Blatter as FIFA's head in February's elections with such a charge hanging over his head.

He said there was a worry that Platini's implication could drag UEFA into the FIFA corruption scandal.

"We have to avoid that at all costs. We must protect UEFA," said the German.

There is an element of bet-hedging, though, as no-one wants to come out and condemn Platini before anything has been proven against him.

The other issue likely to be discussed in Nyon on Thursday is whether or not to ask for a postponement of the FIFA presidential elections, set for February 26.

Platini's 90-day suspension certainly puts him at a disadvantage with the view to his campaigning possibilities as it will be the new year before he is allowed to resume football-related activities.

If such a suggestion were to be made, it would have to be done on Thursday as FIFA's executive committee is holding it's own emergency meeting on Tuesday of next week.

If UEFA were to ask for a delay to the elections, they would need support from other confederations, although in that respect, the South American CONMEBOL organisation would appear to be an ally having described Platini's suspension as "untimely and disproportionate".

But with Platini having been the original frontrunner to replace Blatter, his current woes mean that it is not in the interests of the other FIFA presidential candidates to see the election delayed.

Jordan's Prince Ali bin al-Hussein has already said as much.

"With FIFA's crisis deepening, the organisation needs to move beyond interim leadership and elect an accountable president," the Jordanian royal, a former FIFA vice president, said on Wednesday. 

"Delaying the scheduled election would only postpone needed change and create further instability."

But first, UEFA must decide its course of action, and that won't be known until general secretary Gianni Infantino holds a press conference in Nyon at 6pm (1600 GMT)on Thursday following the crisis meeting.

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