Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and ex-UEFA chief Michel Platini are now being investigated for “fraud” and “breach of trust” in Switzerland, a source with access to the probe said on Friday.
The former power brokers of world football were originally part of a legal procedure opened in 2015 over a 2011 payment to Platini of two million Swiss francs ($2.2 million).
The Swiss prosecutors have decided to change the focus of their investigation, the same source said.
Former Juventus and France midfielder Platini received the payment from FIFA for advisory work completed in 2002.
Prosecutors are investigating on suspicion of “complicity in unfair management, embezzlement and forgery”.
The Swiss Public Ministry of the Confederation (MPC) in Bern has the power to use further legal manoeuvres to call for the sum to be paid.
Platini’s entourage told AFP on Friday the Swiss prosecutors were “maintaining this five-year-old case artificially by widening the accusations”.
FIFA deemed the payment authorised by Blatter a “disloyal payment” and suspended Blatter and Platini from all football-related activities, which prevented the former UEFA chief from running for another term as president in 2016.
In a statement to AFP on Friday, Blatter said: “I have done nothing wrong in making back payments based on a joint agreement.”
Blatter was removed from office in 2015 after 17 years at the head of FIFA.
Football’s world governing body has been rocked by a number of scandals over the last decade.
In October, former FIFA number two Jerome Valcke was handed a suspended 120-day sentence and fined 1.65 million euros ($1.92 million) by a Swiss court over the allocation of World Cup TV rights.
It was the first judgement handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organisations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving FIFA.
Two former Latin American football leaders have been jailed in the United States over their role in corruption.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Ahmad Ahmad announced on Wednesday he will appeal FIFA’s five-year ban for corruption to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Ahmad, from Madagascar, has been head of CAF since March 2017 but was suspended by the global body on Monday for “governance issues”.
“I challenge the sanction that has been imposed. Beyond my case, it is the self-determination of football in Africa that is under attack,” the 60-year-old posted on Twitter.
“This decision was not rendered in a fair and impartial manner,” added a statement from him.
His bid for re-election as head of the African confederation in March 2021 is now in doubt and the statement said the CAS plea was so that Ahmad could run his campaign.
Ahmad was also fined 200,000 Swiss francs ($220,000) by FIFA for the misdeeds, which related to “the organisation and financing of an Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca” and his involvement in CAF’s dealings with a sports equipment company.
Ahmad, who was made a FIFA vice-president after being elected the head of CAF, had denied the accusations and last week stood down from his post for 20 days after testing positive for coronavirus.
In response to Ahmad’s ban, CAF announced on Monday that Constant Omari’s position as interim head of the body would be extended, without specifying for how long.
In April 2019, Ahmad was accused of a series of offences by former CAF official Amr Fahmy, who informed FIFA in a letter Ahmad had paid bribes to directors, made personal use of CAF funds and sexually harassed a number of employees.
Two months later he was arrested in Paris while at the FIFA Congress ahead of that year’s women’s World Cup as part of a probe into corruption but was released a day later without charge.
In their statement, FIFA said Ahmad had “breached his duty of loyalty, offered gifts and other benefits, mismanaged funds and abused his position as the CAF President”.
Ahmad has also been fined 200,000 Swiss francs ($220,000) by FIFA for the misdeeds, which related to “the organisation and financing of an Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca” and his involvement in CAF’s dealings with a sports equipment company.
The 60-year-old, who last week stood down from his post for 20 days after testing positive for coronavirus, can appeal the ban “from all football-related activity” at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
In April 2019 he was accused of a series of offences by former CAF official Amr Fahmy, who informed FIFA in a letter that Ahmad had paid bribes to directors, made personal use of CAF funds, and sexually harassed a number of employees.
Two months later he was arrested in Paris while at the FIFA Congress ahead of that year’s women’s World Cup as part of a probe into corruption, but was released a day later without charge.
Ahmad’s bid to remain head of CAF was being challenged by Augustin Senghor, the president of the Senegalese Football Federation.
Mauritania’s Ahmed Yahya, Ivory Coast’s Jacques Anouma and South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe have also thrown their hats in the ring.
Last month former CAF senior vice-president Kwesi Nyantakyi had his lifetime ban from football for breaking FIFA bribery and corruption rules reduced to 15 years.
Nyantakyi quit his positions as Ahmad’s number two and president of Ghana’s football association two years ago after being secretly filmed accepting a $65,000 bribe from journalists posing as businessmen who wanted to invest in Ghanaian football.
The official also agreed to a fictional sponsorship deal created by the reporters, which they told Nyantakyi would have funnelled millions of dollars designed for Ghanaian football to a company he runs.
Haiti’s football president Yves Jean-Bart was banned for life by FIFA and fined over a million dollars on Friday.
The 72-year-old Jean-Bart is guilty of having abused his position and sexually harassed and abused various female players, including minors, the independent Ethics Committee of world football’s governing body has ruled.
The ongoing proceedings outlined “acts of systematic sexual abuse against female football players between 2014 and 2020.”
Jean-Bart was given a fine of one million Swiss Francs ($1.1 million) and has been banned from all football-related activities for life.
The investigation followed a report in British newspaper the Guardian in April that Jean-Bart sexually abused young female footballers at the country’s national training centre.
The accusations led to the opening of a criminal investigation in Haiti, as well as the suspension of Jean-Bart by FIFA on May 25.
According to girls and former officials quoted by the Guardian in articles in April and August, Jean-Bart raped many underage players.
FIFA suspended two other Haitian football officials, Nella Joseph, supervisor of girls’ football at the training centre, and Wilner Etienne, technical director of the Haitian football federation.
FIFA plans to introduce a series of measures to protect pregnant footballers including mandatory maternity leave “of at least 14 weeks”, the sport’s world governing body announced on Thursday.
“We want to see more women play football but in the same time have a family,” Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s chief women’s football officer, explained to journalists.
The body said it would put a series of reforms forward for approval by the FIFA Council next month, making them immediately applicable across all of its 211 member federations.
The mandatory 14-week maternity leave would see players guaranteed a minimum two-thirds of their contracted salary, while FIFA indicated a wish to make it harder for clubs to part company with pregnant players, saying “no female player should ever suffer a disadvantage as a result of becoming pregnant”.
“The idea is to protect female players before, during and after child birth,” said Emilio Garcia, FIFA’s chief legal and compliance officer.
Under the proposals, if a player is laid off after becoming pregnant, clubs responsible face financial as well as “sporting” punishments.
Clubs must also reintegrate female players and provide “adequate medical and physical support” after they have given birth.
In a statement, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said the reforms were necessary at a time when women’s football is growing, insisting the sport needed to “adopt a regulatory framework that is appropriate and suitable to the needs of the women’s game.”
Previously, cases of female players returning to competition at the top level after giving birth have been rare, although US World Cup-winning star Alex Morgan, 31, had a baby in May this year and has since returned to the sport, signing for English club Tottenham Hotspur.
UEFA have asked FIFA president Gianni Infantino to change the handball rule to stop “growing frustration” following a spate of penalties awarded for the offence, European football’s governing body confirmed on Thursday.
In a letter to Infantino, UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin asked that football’s lawmakers adjust the handball rule — which has been in place since March last year — so that referees can once again judge whether there is intent when a player handles the ball.
“The attempt to strictly define the cases where handling the ball is an offence has resulted in many unfair decisions which have been met with growing frustration and discomfort by the football community,” said Ceferin’s letter, which was sent on October 27.
The contents of the letter were confirmed to AFP’s sister sports agency in Germany, SID.
The news of the letter comes a day after the latest controversial spot-kick award, which put Chelsea two goals ahead in their 3-0 Champions League win over Rennes on Wednesday.
Rennes defender Dalbert, who had already given away the first penalty which had put Chelsea ahead, was sent off for a second booking following a VAR review when a Tammy Abraham shot bounced off his foot onto his arm.
The decision, and Timo Werner’s cool finish from the spot, effectively killed off the Ligue 1 side’s chances of getting a result at Stamford Bridge in their first-ever season in the Champions League.
Rennes president Nicolas Holveck was livid after the defeat in London, calling referee Felix Zwayer “the man of the match”.
“I would like someone to clearly explain to me the rules for handballs in the box … the score went to 2-0 without Alfred (Gomis, the Rennes goalkeeper) having to make a save.”
It was one of many penalty decisions that have angered players and managers and Ceferin in his letter suggested was against the “spirit of the game”.
Ceferin wrote to Infantino as it is the FIFA-controlled International Football Association Board which decides on the game’s laws.
FIFA has half of the eight IFAB votes, with the others belonging to the FA’s of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has contracted coronavirus, the world’s governing body announced on Tuesday.
The 50-year-old has mild symptoms and will remain in isolation for a further 10 days.
“All people who came into contact with the FIFA President during the last few days have been informed accordingly and they are being requested to take the necessary steps,” the body said.
“FIFA sincerely wishes President Infantino a speedy recovery,” it added.
Infantino’s last public appearances was at FIFA’s Compliance Summit which ended on October 16 when all attendees were present via video.
Cases, hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 in the body’s base, Switzerland, have doubled from one week to the next throughout October.
The country’s government is expected to decide Wednesday on new measures to control the spread of the virus.
The spread of the illness has cast doubt over Wednesday’s potential meeting between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the Champions League after the Juventus attacker tested positive for the illness earlier this month.
The camp of the Super Eagles in Austria is in a great mood due to the arrival of all invited players, and showing good confidence as they prepare to take on African champions, Algeria, and the continent’s second-ranked team Tunisia in two friendlies between Friday and Tuesday.
The news Former Germany U-20 captain Kevin Akpoguma, who arrived at the camp only to bond with Nigeria’s international train ahead of his switch to the fatherland, who has been cleared by FIFA’s single judge to represent Nigeria also added to the joyous mood.
His clearance solidifies a dependable backline of Kenneth Omeruo, Leon Balogun, Chidozie Awaziem, William Ekong, Olaoluwa Aina, Jamilu Collins, Oluwasemilogo Ajayi, and first-time invitee Zaidu Sanusi.
Algeria, who have a second game against Mexico in The Netherlands on Tuesday, come into Friday’s game not only as the champions of Africa but also on the back of an 18-match unbeaten run. They have not lost on the pitch since they were bumped by the odd goal in an AFCON 2019 qualifier away in the Benin Republic in October 2018.
Two years earlier, they were bounced 3-1 by the Super Eagles in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match in Uyo. Both teams ended the return leg in Constantine 1-1, though the Eagles had already picked the only World Cup ticket from the group ahead of that final encounter.
Tunisia, who play the Super Eagles on Tuesday at the same venue, will host Sudan’s Falcons at the Stade Olympique in Rades on Friday at the same time the Eagles are taking to the pitch against the Fennecs in Austria.
Djamel Belmadi, the former Algerian international who coached his country to a second continental title in Egypt last year, has included standout names Riyad Mahrez, Yassine Brahimi, Sofiane Feghouli and Baghdad Bounedjah in his 24-man squad to confront the three-time African champions.
Coach Gernot Rohr also has in his team Captain Ahmed Musa, Alex Iwobi, Samuel Chukwueze and Kenneth Omeruo, but he has to do without electrifying forward Victor Osimhen and midfield lynchpin Wilfred Ndidi. New birds Frank Onyeka and Chidera Ejuke, and former U17 captain Samson Tijani have the opportunity to impress.
Both matches will kick off at 8.30pm Austrian time (7.30pm Nigeria time).
FIFA on Wednesday put the cost of Covid-19 on football around the world at $11 billion in lost revenue.
The pandemic has already led to over 150 football associations to seek financial help from the $1.5 billion emergency relief fund set up by football’s governing body.
Olli Rehn, chairman of FIFA’s coronavirus steering committee, laid bare for the first time the true financial impact the virus has had on the game through fixture list chaos, empty stadiums and loss of TV rights revenue.
“It’s a huge number and it covers the football economy in its entirety, including all youth academies,” Rehn, a Finnish politician and governor of the Bank of Finland, told a press conference.
“This will impact next year as well, there is a carry over.
“That is why this Covid-19 relief fund is not time-bound – they may request loans later on if they need to,” Rehn, who is also independent deputy chairman of the FIFA Governance Committee, said.
He said that while Europe was hit hardest in terms of absolute cost, it was the associations outside Europe which “have suffered more”.
“In particular in South America, many on account of their relative means and the spring to autumn season,” he said.
Last month European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli predicted lost revenue of four billion euros over two years for its member clubs.
Each national association can request a FIFA grant of $1million ($2mn for confederations) plus $500,000 for women’s football.
Loans are available to national associations up to a maximum value of $5mn ($4mn for confederations).
Rehn was at pains to stress that unlike in the past it was imperative the money made available by FIFA “is being used for the right purposes”.
“Corruption has no room in football,” he stated.
“Good governance is at the heart of this Covid-19 relief fund,” he said.
“We have made this clear to member associations. I know some member associations have complained about heavy compliance procedures – I’m quite used to that. We do require full compliance and we have been working with globally-known auditing companies.
He gave some examples of how the relief fund is already being put into use, like in Thailand, where it has helped restart the national league competition, including coronavirus testing, but also to implement video assistant referee (VAR) technology.
Mexico spent its entire $1.5mn grant on its national women’s league, and in Brazil the funds are supporting the testing programme in the women’s competition.
And in Uruguay, the money has helped the federation re-hire staff it had been forced to lay off, who were crucial to its effective operation.
Michel Platini was quizzed by a Swiss prosecutor on Monday in a probe investigating a two-million-Swiss-franc ($2.2-million) payment that the former European football chief received from FIFA in 2011.
Platini was summoned to Switzerland’s capital Bern by prosecutor Thomas Hildbrand. Sepp Blatter, the former president of the sport’s world governing body FIFA, is due to meet the prosecutor on Tuesday as part of the same proceedings.
Platini, the ex-head of European football’s governing body UEFA, was questioned for around three hours at the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
“The questions went very well for my client,” Platini’s lawyer Dominic Nellen told AFP after the meeting, which was held behind closed doors.
“He responded to all the questions that the OAG asked him and told how everything went down and what the truth is with the payment of the two million. We are awaiting the deposition of other witnesses in the coming days.
“There is nothing that we fear because they will tell the truth and the prosecutor can see for himself that there’s nothing illegal about that payment.”
Platini appeared in good spirits as he entered the complex housing the OAG.
– Further questions expected –
Platini and Blatter each face interrogation from the public prosecutor as part of the proceedings, which were opened in 2015.
In June, Hildbrand formally added Platini to an investigation into the payment he received from FIFA in 2011 for an advisory job completed in 2002, on suspicion of “complicity in unfair management, embezzlement and forgery in securities”.
Platini said at the time that the OAG had “confirmed in writing in May 2018” that his case was closed.
The 65-year-old former French football great now has the status of “accused” alongside Blatter.
Platini has been questioned once before by Swiss prosecutors but Monday was the first time he was grilled as an accused person, his lawyer said.
Nellen said he expected a further meeting with Hildbrand, at which the former UEFA chief will face further questions.
Two other former FIFA executives, Frenchman Jerome Valcke, the former secretary-general, and German Markus Kattner, the former financial director, are being investigated on “suspicion of unfair management”, the OAG has said.
Kattner will be questioned on September 4.
– ‘Back pay’: Blatter –
Platini, who was UEFA president from January 2007 to December 2015, has claimed he is being persecuted by FIFA.
“After five years, it is quite possible that FIFA will continue to harass me through complaints with the sole aim of keeping me out of football and smearing my reputation,” he said in June.
Blatter, who is 84, told AFP the payment was above board.
“It was back pay for work done by Michel Platini. The sum was validated by the finance commission. It cannot be a criminal offence,” Blatter said, adding that he was “serene” ahead of the new hearing.
FIFA deemed the sum a “disloyal payment” and suspended Blatter and Platini from all football-related activities, which prevented the former UEFA chief from running for the FIFA presidency in 2016.
Platini appealed against his initial eight-year suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reduced it to four years, then the Swiss Federal Court and finally at the European Court of Human Rights.
Hildbrand questioned Blatter in late July and early August in connection with a separate investigation into television rights contracts issued to the Caribbean Football Union.
Platini is regarded among world football’s greatest-ever players. He won the Ballon d’Or, considered the most prestigious individual award, three times — in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
Only Lionel Messi (six) and Cristiano Ronaldo (five) have won more Ballons d’Or than Platini.
FIFA has ordered the cancellation of a general assembly of the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF) which had been called to vote on replacing the commission handling a presidential election, AFP learned on Sunday.
The vote has turned into a soap opera marred by incessant infighting, attracting international attention because FIF had appeared to be trying to freeze out Didier Drogba as a potential candidate.
A FIF emergency committee ruled the electoral commission was “suspended for serious shortcomings” and scheduled an extraordinary general meeting on August 29 to install another commission.
However, in a letter dated August 21, FIFA told FIF “the emergency committee is not competent to suspend the FIF electoral process”, which must resume without delay.
Drogba officially submitted his candidacy for the presidency on August 1 after struggling to find the required sponsor.
In addition to Drogba, Idriss Diallo, former third vice-president of the FIF, supported by the Football Players’ Association, as well as the current vice-president of the Federation and president of the League Sory Diabate had already submitted their candidacies.