For all that I have been advocating for a ‘new’ FIFA, there is no pleasure in the news overnight about Michel Platini. 

Not because he was a good guy as an administrator. At worst, he was like so many involved with world football administration. At best, he was very, very silly. The Court of Arbitration for Sport made it clear in their decision yesterday that they lean more to the former view than the latter. Platini has indicated that he will resign as UEFA President, but he will continue to fight the verdict through civil courts as he considers it to be “a profound injustice”.

What is sad is that, as one of the few football players in the world who made their way up the ladder of world football administration, he has had his career in football ended so ignominiously.

Platini wasn’t just any footballer. For those of us old enough to remember him in his heyday, he was one of those players who helped put ‘beautiful’ into ‘the beautiful game’. Known as ‘Le Roi’ (the King) because of the way he controlled the midfield and his natural leadership ability, Platini was a prolific scorer for Nancy, Saint Etienne, Juventus and France. In 1984, when France last hosted the European championships, Platini was captain, he scored the most goals in the championship (a record he still holds), they won, and he had just come off a Serie A championship with with Juventus. He is a three times Ballon D’Or winner and is considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. 

For all that Platini is revered within most of UEFA for his time as President, there are also critics, particularly relating to the nation that has shaped so much of what has happened in world football in the past six years: Qatar.

Unlike many who have not publicly revealed their vote, Platini admitted he voted for Qatar 2022. France Football magazine suggested his vote was secured at a meeting with the then Crown Prince (now Emir) of Qatar, the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy and a representative of Sarkozy’s beloved Paris Saint German football club. 

Along with Gianni Infantino, who was elected FIFA President in February as the ‘accidental candidate’ in Platini’s place, he also led the shift early of the 2022 World Cup from northern hemisphere summer to winter, a decision that will have a significant impact on domestic league competitions. The Crown Prince purchased a 70% stake in Paris Saint Germain within seven months of the 2022 vote. Both Platini and his son, Laurent, denied that Laurent’s lucrative employment with Qatar Sports Investments was anything to do with how Michel voted. 

Platini may not be alone. Another footballing legend, Franz Beckenbauer, is apparently still under investigation in relation to Germany 2006, possibly South Africa 2010 and probably whatever happened in relation to 2022. Beckenbauer has retired from all official football positions, but is still active in media and other football endeavours. While not in the same stratosphere as Platini and Beckenbauer as a player, the longstanding Spanish FIFA Executive Committee member (now FIFA Council), Angel Maria Villar Llona, is also still under investigation. He has been acting UEFA President in Platini’s absence.

It is encouraging to see the FIFA Ethics Committee, now led by Cornel Borbely, addressing some of the long-overdue matters they need to investigate. No doubt that list is long. It is encouraging that Attorney-General Loretta Lynch of the United States has vowed that the ‘crooks’ within world football will not outwait the FBI and the US Department of Justice. It is encouraging that the Swiss Government, stung by accusations that they have become a haven for money launderers and tax cheats, are apparently diligently and meticulously poring through multiple terabytes of testimony and evidence related to how football has been run throughout the world.  

Four years before the world knew about the ‘disloyal payment’ between Platini and Blatter, I had been critical of Platini (as I have of others) over his silence on what went on at FIFA. In a presentation to the Chartered Secretaries Institute (now Governance Institute) of Australia in 2011, I stated:

“As President of UEFA, Michel Platini is widely considered the second most powerful person in football after Blatter. He is amongst the top 10 players ever, has been on the Executive Committee of FIFA for ten years and is widely considered to be the heir apparent to Blatter. He speaks ‐ and people hang off every word; he is in an unassailable position to show leadership and breach the moral vacuum of FIFA; but he doesn’t because he wants to be the next President of FIFA and he believes the best way of getting there is to remain silent. For ten years.”

Michel Platini not only chose to be silent, but also to accept a payment that gave him an ‘undue advantage’. In the end – and thanks to the light shone on the ‘FIFA Way’ by campaigners, whistleblowers, some media and the US and Swiss authorities – his choices meant he would never become ‘Le Roi de FIFA’.

Categories: People | Europe

fifa, fifa corruption, michel platini

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