UEFA announced this morning that it had made a successful application to FIFA’s Ethics Committee for Michel Platini, the former UEFA President, to address the upcoming 12th Extraordinary UEFA Congress on 14 September 2016.
The agenda of the UEFA Congress includes the election of the next UEFA President.
It has been reported that UEFA’s application was made on the ground of allowing Platini to ‘make a short farewell address’ and that the FIFA Ethics Committee granted permission as a ‘gesture of humanity’.
A past President of an organisation addressing its Congress is not unexpected. This past President of this organisation addressing this Congress of this sport and at this time is unexpected. Why? Because Michel Platini is currently banned from all ‘football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) on a national and international level’. Why? Here’s a quick summary of the key events in the recent turbulent history of the relationship between Michel Platini, UEFA and FIFA that led to Platini’s ban:
- 26 January 2007 – Platini, a former French footballer who represented France in three World Cups, is elected UEFA President. He is subsequently re-elected twice (in 2011 and in 2015);
- December 2010 to April 2015 – in late 2010 the 2018 and 2022 World Cups are surprisingly awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively. Subsequently, the FBI launches a probe into corruption at the organisation; FIFA later follows suit by launching its own internal investigation. In late 2014, FIFA, to the protestation of its appointed investigator Micheal Garcia, announces that its investigation is closed as it did not unveil any corruption; the FBI announces it will continue with its probe.
- 27 May 2015 – 2 June 2015 – an unprecedented 17 days in the history of FIFA begins as the FBI announces that it has concluded a lengthy investigation into corruption at FIFA. That investigation results in numerous arrests and resignations at the top and at the heart of the governing body culminating in the resignation of the previously seemingly immovable and irrepressible FIFA President, Sepp Blatter.
- 29 July 2015 – Platini, the incumbent UEFA President, announces he will run for FIFA President and pledges to ‘work tirelessly for the unity and well-being of world football’. He is quickly cited as a favourite in the race though concerns are raised by some commentators as a result of his strong connections to Blatter and FIFA.
- 26 September 2015 – news emerges that Blatter and Platini are being investigated by the FIFA Ethics Committee over a ‘disloyal payment’ of two million Swiss francs (£1.3 million) made to Platini in 2011 for services rendered in 1998 and 2002.
- 21 December 2015 – Blatter and Platini are both banned by FIFA’s Ethics Committee from all ‘football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) on a national and international level’ for eight years. Platini appeals the decision to the FIFA Appeals Committee.
- 22 January 2016 – UEFA’s Executive Committee states that it hopes Platini’s name will be cleared and that he can ‘return to the European football family as quickly as possible’.
- 24 February 2016 – FIFA’s Appeal Committee dismisses Platini’s appeal but reduces the ban from eight years to six. Platini appeals the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (the CAS).
- 9 May 2016 – the CAS dismisses Platini’s appeal but reduces the ban from six years to four. Platini resigns as UEFA President but calls the decision a ‘profound injustice’.
As a result of the corruption scandals that have engulfed world football (only extracts of which are set out above), FIFA has launched a governance reform process that is to ‘pave the way for further significant and much-needed changes to FIFA’s governance structure’. Good governance is also one of the eleven values of UEFA and it has committed to ‘openness, democracy, transparency and responsibility’ within its organisation.
Platini is a man paying the price for having being found to be heavily involved in his sport’s corruption scandals. Given the pressure (both political and media) on football to reform, Platini now has a highly unexpected opportunity to address the UEFA Congress and the wider sporting community. Should he pledge his support for FIFA’s and football’s governance reform process, FIFA’s ‘gesture of humanity’ may yet provide positive evidence that football is getting its house in order; should he fail to do so, it will be nigh on impossible to avoid attracting further criticism to himself and to football’s governing bodies. Let’s see which outcome the 14th brings for football…