Blatter Says Awarding Qatar World Cup Was ‘A Mistake’

 In this file photo taken on March 8, 2018 Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter gestures during a press conference in Zurich. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
In this file photo taken on March 8, 2018 Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter gestures during a press conference in Zurich. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

 

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter says the decision to award the 2022 World Cup finals to Qatar was a “mistake”.

In 2010, FIFA’s executive committee voted 14-8 for Qatar to host the tournament ahead of the United States.

“It was a mistake,” Blatter said in an interview with AFP’s German sports subsidiary SID. “It was based on a decision when I was president, and therefore I bear part of the responsibility for it.”

Blatter says he voted for the United States to host the 2022 tournament and blames then-UEFA president Michel Platini for swinging the vote in Qatar’s favour at the behest of then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy had recommended to Platini “that he and his people should vote for Qatar”, Blatter said.

The former FIFA president’s version of events has been denied by Platini.

Platini told French investigators that while he attended a lunch at the Elysee Palace with Sarkozy and then-Qatari crown prince Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani shortly before the vote, “the president (Sarkozy) never asked me to vote for one country or another, but I got the impression that he supported Qatar.”

The Qatar World Cup is the first to be held in the Middle East and the first during the Northern Hemisphere winter.

It takes place from 20 November to 18 December.

The vote to award the tournament to Qatar was surrounded by accusations of corruption.

“I didn’t care if someone was influenced here or there,” Blatter said, adding that as the voting process went on, he realised that “other forces were at work”.

“The Qataris didn’t give gifts to the people who were voting, they gave them to their countries,” Blatter said.

Blatter was FIFA president for 17 years but was forced to step down in 2015 over allegations he unlawfully arranged a transfer of two million Swiss francs ($2.2 million) to Platini, who was also forced to resign from his position at FIFA.

FIFA initially banned Blatter from football for eight years, later reduced to six, over the payment to Platini. Blatter’s ban was extended to 2028 for violations of FIFA’s code of ethics.

Blatter and Platini were found not guilty of fraud at a trial in Switzerland in July.

Prosecutors Appeal Blatter, Platini Acquittal In FIFA Fraud Trial

Former UEFA president Michel Platini reacts as he talks to journalists after the verdict of his trial over a suspected fraudulent payment, at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court, in the southern Switzerland city of Bellinzona, on July 8, 2022. – Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, once the chiefs of world and European football, were acquitted over a suspected fraudulent payment that shook the sport and torpedoed their time at the top. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

 

 

Swiss prosecutors said Thursday that they had filed an appeal against the acquittal of former football chiefs Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini over a suspected fraudulent payment.

Blatter and Platini, once the chiefs of world and European football respectively, were cleared on July 8 by the Federal Criminal Court in a trial following a mammoth investigation that began in 2015.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) told AFP that it had filed the appeal before the deadline was reached Wednesday night, confirming a report in L’Equipe.

Switzerland’s top prosecutor “has applied for the full annulment of the first-instance judgement,” a spokeswoman for the Office of the Attorney General wrote in an email.

The prosecutors reportedly had 20 days to make their intentions clear after the reception of the full verdict from the Federal Criminal Court, based in the southern city of Bellinzona, on September 29.

Former FIFA president Blatter, 86, and Platini, 67, were cleared of the allegations that shook world football and torpedoed their time at the top.

The Federal Criminal Court rejected the prosecution’s request for a suspended prison sentence of a year and eight months.

The trial revolved around payment for Platini’s work as an adviser to Blatter between 1998 and 2002.

Platini was accused of having submitted to FIFA in 2011 an allegedly fictitious invoice for a claimed debt still outstanding for his advisory work.

They signed a contract in 1999 for an annual remuneration of 300,000 Swiss francs, which was paid in full by FIFA.

But the pair were tried over a two million Swiss franc ($2.06 million) payment in 2011 to Platini, who was then in charge of European football’s governing body UEFA.

Blatter told the court the pair had actually struck a “gentleman’s agreement” for Platini to be paid a million Swiss francs a year.

Both were accused of fraud and forgery of a document. Blatter was accused of misappropriation and criminal mismanagement, while Platini was accused of participating in those offences.

The court concluded that fraud was “not established with a likelihood bordering on certainty”, and therefore applied the general principle of criminal law according to which “the doubt must benefit the accused”.

Blatter, Platini Cleared In FIFA Fraud Trial

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, once the chiefs of world and European football, were acquitted over a suspected fraudulent payment that shook the sport and torpedoed their time at the top. (Photo by AFP)

 

 

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, once the chiefs of the world and European football, were cleared Friday over a suspected fraudulent payment that shook the sport and torpedoed their time at the top.

Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court in the southern city of Bellinzona acquitted the pair in a trial following a mammoth investigation that began in 2015 and lasted six years.

Former FIFA president Blatter, 86, and Platini, 67, listened in silence as the clerk read out the judgement which rejected the prosecution’s request for a suspended prison sentence of a year and eight months.

“A neutral court has finally found that no offence has been committed in this case. My client is completely cleared and relieved as a result,” said Platini’s lawer Dominic Nellen.

Former French football great Platini released a short statement claiming to have “won the first round”, while alluding to alleged political and judicial manipulation intended to remove him from power.

“In this case, there are culprits who did not appear during this trial. Let them count on me: we will find one other,” he said.

Platini was employed as an adviser to Blatter between 1998 and 2002.

Blatter told the court that when he took over as FIFA president in 1998, world football’s governing body had a bad record and he thought someone who had been a top figure in playing the game could help.

He turned to Platini for advice, which involved political trips, reforming the international calendar and helping the national federations financially.

They signed a contract in 1999 for an annual remuneration of 300,000 Swiss francs, which was paid in full by FIFA.

But the pair were tried over a two million Swiss franc ($2.05 million) payment in 2011 to Platini, who was then in charge of European football’s governing body UEFA.

 

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter gives a thumb up as he leaves Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court after the verdict of his trial over a suspected fraudulent payment, in the southern Switzerland city of Bellinzona, on July 8, 2022.  (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

 

– ‘Gentleman’s agreement’ –
Former world football chief Blatter told the court that the pair had struck a “gentleman’s agreement” for Platini to be paid a million Swiss francs a year.

Platini had jokingly asked Blatter for a million, without specifying the currency, and the then-FIFA president agreed, with part of the money — outside of the contract they signed — to be paid “later”, the court heard.

The remainder would be settled when FIFA’s fragile finances allowed it, Blatter said, in a deal concluded orally and without witnesses.

Platini was accused of having submitted to FIFA in 2011 an allegedly fictitious invoice for a claimed debt still outstanding for his advisory work.

Both were accused of fraud and forgery of a document. Blatter was accused of misappropriation and criminal mismanagement, while Platini was accused of participating in those offences.

Blatter and Platini maintained their innocence throughout their trial, which ran from June 8 to 22.

But the court considered that the fraud was “not established with a likelihood bordering on certainty”, and therefore applied the general principle of criminal law according to which “the doubt must benefit the accused”.

The indictment was filed by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland.

Both FIFA and UEFA are headquartered in Switzerland, in Zurich and Nyon respectively.

 

Former UEFA president Michel Platini reacts as he talks to journalists after the verdict of his trial over a suspected fraudulent payment, at Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court, in the southern Switzerland city of Bellinzona, on July 8, 2022.  (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

 

– Power drama –
Platini and Blatter were banned from the sport at the very moment when the former seemed ideally-placed to succeed Blatter at the helm of world football’s governing body.

The two allies became rivals as Platini grew impatient to take over, while Blatter’s tenure was brought to a swift end by a separate 2015 FIFA corruption scandal investigated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Joseph “Sepp” Blatter joined FIFA in 1975, became its general secretary in 1981 and the president of world football’s governing body in 1998.

He was forced to stand down in 2015 and was banned by FIFA for eight years, later reduced to six, over ethics breaches for authorising the payment to Platini, allegedly made in his own interests rather than FIFA’s.

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.

Platini was UEFA’s president from January 2007 to December 2015.

He appealed against his initial eight-year suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reduced it to four years.

FIFA Extends Ban On Blatter By Six Years

A file photo of former FIFA chief, Sepp Blatter.
A file photo of former FIFA chief, Sepp Blatter.

 

International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) said on Wednesday it had extended the ban on its former president Sepp Blatter and former secretary-general Jerome Valcke by six years and eight months, in relation to the receipt of huge bonuses.

Blatter, who is 85, received 23 million Swiss francs ($24.6 million) in “extraordinary bonuses” linked to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as well as the Confederations Cup tournament in Brazil that preceded it, FIFA’s Ethics Committee said in a statement.

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Valcke, the 60-year-old Frenchman who was Blatter’s right-hand man during his 17-year reign at the head of football’s world governing body, received 30 million Swiss francs over the same period, the committee said.

The Ethics Committee said Blatter and Valcke had broken rules in FIFA’s Code of Ethics including “offering and accepting gifts or other benefits” and “abuse of position”.

The new bans will only come into force when the current bans on Blatter and Valcke, which last till October this year and October 2025, end.

The Ethics Committee said it had also fined each man one million Swiss francs.

AFP

Blatter, Platini Probe Shifts To Fraud Accusation

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter gestures during a press conference in Zurich on March 8, 2018.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

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.

AFP

Swiss Prosecutors Expand Investigation Into Former FIFA Chief, Sepp Blatter

A file photo of former FIFA chief, Sepp Blatter.
A file photo of former FIFA chief, Sepp Blatter.

 

Swiss prosecutors have opened a fresh investigation targeting former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter for suspected criminal mismanagement of funds over a decade-old $1 million payment, AFP learned Saturday.

The probe, opened last month, is connected with a loan FIFA gave to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFF) in 2010, which was given interest-free, with no collateral, and was quickly forgiven as a “subsidy”, a document seen by AFP showed.

This marks the latest in a string of allegations of improper FIFA-linked payments to Trinidad’s long-serving FIFA official Jack Warner, who has been banned from football for life and is battling extradition to the US from his native Trinidad.

The Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) confirmed in a statement that it had in May this year “extended the criminal proceedings” against the former FIFA president.

It added that two other former high-level FIFA officials, former secretary general Jerome Valcke and ex-FIFA financial director Markus Kattner, were also targeted.

An OAG spokesperson meanwhile told AFP in an email that this was “not a new criminal proceeding against Joseph Blatter, it is in addition to the overall criminal proceedings against Joseph Blatter.”

The 84-year-old former FIFA chief himself told AFP that he had been “informed of the accusation, and I totally reject its content.”

The news of the fresh leg of the probe comes after the OAG last month shelved part of the procedure opened against Blatter in 2015 on “suspicion of unfair management and breach of trust”.

It closed part of the investigation against him involving TV rights sold allegedly below market value to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), at the time headed by Warner.

OAG stressed Saturday that other aspects of the criminal proceedings “are not affected by the decision to discontinue” the TV rights part of the probe.

“The criminal proceedings against the accused will continue,” the OAG statement said.

Swiss prosecutors have already made clear that another investigation, into a payment of two million Swiss francs (1.88 million euros) to Michel Platini, the former UEFA president, and FIFA executive committee member, was ongoing.

Blatter’s payment to Platini led to both men being banned from football, although the Frenchman was cleared by the Swiss courts in 2018.

Blatter Ready To Testify In France Over 2022 World Cup

Former FIFA then President Joseph Blatter (L) speaking at the start of the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards ceremony at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on January 7, 2013. AFP

 

Sepp Blatter, the former president of FIFA, told AFP on Wednesday that he had opposed awarding the 2020 World Cup to Qatar, but that he has a “clear conscience.”

Blatter said he is willing to testify to French prosecutors about the 2010 vote in favour of Qatar.

“If they ask me formally then I think I will go to France because I have a clear conscience,” said the 83-year-old who already testified in Switzerland in April, 2017, at the request of the French authorities.

Qatar beat Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to win the vote. However, the result has been consistently questioned.

A three-year-old French investigation, was recently entrusted to a Paris investigative magistrate charged with looking specifically for “active and passive corruption”.

Six months ago, Michael Platini, who was vice-president of FIFA and UEFA president at the time, was questioned about his decision to vote in favour of Qatar.

The investigators are particularly interested in a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on November 23, 2010, just over a week before the vote, between French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Qatari prince Tamim ben Hamad al-Thani –- who became Emir in 2013 –- and Platini who subsequently voted for Qatar.

“When Platini said that he would have voted for Qatar anyway, especially for the development of football, it is not true,” said Blatter.

“We had a consensus within the Executive Committee of FIFA, which planned to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to the United States.

“Everything went well until eight days before the election when there was this famous dinner at the Elysee.

“Platini phoned me immediately after. He told me: ‘Sepp, it’s not going to work, we will have a problem for the election.’ President Sarkozy had asked him, suggested, to vote for Qatar,” said Blatter, who reported this telephone conversation to the Swiss judge in April 2017.

“I said to Platini ‘Did he force you?’ He said ‘Not at all, but when a head of state asks you to do something, you do it so I will follow and I will take my friends with me’.”

“His friends were the Cypriot Marios Lefkaritis, the Belgian Michel D’Hooghe who would have voted for Qatar anyway, his son having already had a post in Qatar, and the Spaniard Angel Maria Villar. So it made four voices that tipped the vote.”

Blatter, who was ousted from office in 2015, is serving a six-year ban from  FIFA activities because of a separate payment of 2 million Swiss francs (1.84 million euros) to Platini.

AFP

Blatter Arrives In Russia For World Cup Despite FIFA Ban

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter arrives to the hotel St Regis in Moscow, on June 19, 2018, during the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. Photo: Vasily MAXIMOV / AFP

 

Disgraced former FIFA boss Sepp Blatter defied a ban to attend World Cup matches and arrived in Russia on Tuesday at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin.

“I’m not here to comment on the game. I’m here to enjoy the World Cup,” Blatter told reporters before stepping inside a luxurious Moscow hotel.

The 82-year-old is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors for alleged corruption during his 17-year reign as head of world football’s governing body.

The Swiss national was suspended for six years by FIFA in 2016 from football-related activities over a 1.8-million-euro ($2 million) payment to former UEFA chief Michel Platini.

Former FIFA spokesman Thomas Renggli told AFP that Blatter would meet Putin on Wednesday.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday he did not know whether any meeting had been planned.

Last October Blatter announced he had received an invitation from Putin to attend the June 14 to July 15 showpiece which Russia is hosting..

The two men developed a close relationship after FIFA’s disputed decision in 2010 to award this year’s tournament to Russia instead of England.

FIFA said it had no comment to make on Blatter’s trip.

Blatter is slated to watch Wednesday’s game between Portugal and Morocco in the Russian capital and might also attend Brazil’s match against Costa Rica in Putin’s native Saint Petersburg.

Putin is not scheduled to be at either match.

AFP

Blatter Wants An End Into Corruption Probe

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter gestures during a press conference in Zurich on March 8, 2018.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Sepp Blatter said on Thursday that he is growing impatient.

The former FIFA president has been under investigation since 2015 over an “illegal payment” to Michel Platini, and would like the whole thing to be wrapped up.

Blatter, talking to journalists in Zurich on Thursday, said “nothing” had happened since September 2015, the date of the opening of proceedings against him for “corrupt management” stemming from the two million Swiss Franc (1.8mn euro, $2mn) payment to Platini, the former head of European governing body UEFA, adding “it’s a bit long”.

The lawyers of both men were summoned two weeks ago by the Swiss courts in Bern.

“Platini has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, two weeks ago the Swiss court heard the Platini clan in Bern, my lawyer was also present and he again showed that the payment to Platini was done correctly,” Blatter explained.

Blatter, who is 82, was president of FIFA from 1998 until June 2015 when he quit days after winning relection for a fifth term as a wave of scandals broke.

He was later banned from football by FIFA for eight years, a sentence then reduced to six years over a payment to Platini, his former friend and ally.

Unlike Blatter, Platini has fought his own, four-year, ban in the civil courts. After being rebuffed by a Swiss tribunal, the Frenchman turned to Strasbourg.

“I wish we could finish,” Blatter said. “What I want to do is work alongside Swiss justice but also find the arguments necessary to obtain a reversal of the decision of the (FIFA) ethics commission.”

AFP

Blatter Denies Grabbing Hope Solo’s Backside

This combination of pictures created on November 11, 2017 by AFP shows former FIFA then President Joseph Blatter (L) speaking at the start of the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards ceremony at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on January 7, 2013 and USA women’s national football team goalkeeper Hope Solo attending BODY at ESPYs at Milk Studios on July 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. PHOTO; FABRICE COFFRINI, JASON MERRITT/AFP

The former head of world football Sepp Blatter said on Saturday that claims by United State women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo that he had grabbed her backside were “absurd”.

Solo told Portuguese newspaper Expresso that then-FIFA president Blatter had sexually harassed her at the 2013 Ballon d’Or ceremony.

The 36-year-old Solo, her country’s standout goalkeeper, claimed Blatter pounced as she was about to present an award to her teammate Abby Wambach.

“Sepp Blatter grabbed my ass, it was a few years ago at the Ballon d’Or ceremony just before I got on stage,” Solo said.

However, Blatter, 81, told AFP the accusations were “absurd and ridiculous”.

Solo, a World Cup winner, and two-time Olympic champion made the allegations on the sidelines of the Web Summit being held in Lisbon.

She said that sexual harassment at the hands of male officials was a common problem in women’s football.

“I have seen this all of my career and I would like to see more athletes speak about their experiences,” said Solo.

“It’s out of control, not just in Hollywood but everywhere,” she added in reference to the firestorm of sexual harassment allegations in entertainment, politics and sport since the scandal involving Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein unfolded.

Solo made reference to the fact that female players sometimes married their US college coaches “which obviously a coach should not be doing, especially with a young player.”

Blatter was president of FIFA from 1998 to 2015 until he was banned for corruption.

The Swiss official ran FIFA with an iron hand and oversaw a period in which football’s premier tournament was hosted in Asia for the first time and he paved the way for it to be held in Qatar in 2022.

After the corruption allegations emerged, FIFA banned Blatter from the sport for eight years, a term later reduced to six years after appeal.

Blatter told AFP last month that he would attend next year’s World Cup finals in Russia at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin.

AFP

I Am Going To World Cup At Putin’s Invitation, Says Blatter

FIFA’s disgraced ex-president Sepp Blatter has told AFP he will go to next year’s World Cup in Russia at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, despite being banned from football.

“I will go to the World Cup in Russia. I received an invitation from President Putin,” the 81-year-old said in an interview.

Blatter said Michel Platini, the ex-UEFA president who is banned from football over corruption, had also been invited to the tournament by Putin.

But according to one of his close allies Platini “hasn’t received an invitation from Putin to go to the World Cup and doesn’t know what he will be doing next summer”.

Blatter, who led world football’s governing body for 17 years, was thrown out of the sport in 2015 at the height of a massive corruption scandal.

FIFA’s ethics committee has suspended him from all football-related activities for six years after finding him guilty of accepting an improper 2 million Swiss franc ($2.1 million, 1.8 million euros) payment from then-UEFA chief Platini.

But the ever-defiant Blatter said he had no plans to miss the World Cup, an event he has habitually attended since going to work at FIFA in the 1970s.

“I don’t know how long I will go for, whether I will be there for the opening match or the final,” he said during the interview in Zurich.

“Because I can’t work in football and I don’t have an assignment to do, maybe I will only make a short visit.”

Blatter is also the target of an investigation by Swiss prosecutors over alleged criminal mismanagement at FIFA and the infamous Platini payment.

Switzerland has ongoing probes into the 2018 World Cup, including possible bribery and corruption that may have led to Russia winning hosting rights.

“I’m sure that World Cup 2018 will be a great World Cup. Russia has to show that it can welcome the whole world. It’s a big challenge,” Blatter said.

It was not immediately clear how the FIFA ban would impact Blatter’s attendance at matches or events.

Platini, banned from football for four years, was allowed to attend Euro 2016 matches in his native France, provided he played no official role.

AFP

Football Ban: Swiss Supreme Court Rejects Platini’s Appeal

PlatiniSwitzerland’s Supreme Court has rejected former UEFA president, Michel Platini’s bid to overturn his four-year ban from the sport over ethics violations.

The court confirmed a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling in 2016 that upheld Platini’s ban.

The ruling stems from a $2.08million payment the French football legend received from FIFA in 2011.

Platini, who has denied wrongdoing, was banned along with Sepp Blatter, the former FIFA president who approved the payment.