Sepp Blatter has responded to his eight-year ban from football by insisting that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing over a payment to Michel Platini. The 79-year-old said that he remains president of Fifa, before stating that he will take his case to the court of arbitration for sport.
The Fifa ethics committee, chaired by the German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert,ruled on Monday morning that both Blatter and Platini should be banned, despite their protestations that they did nothing wrong when Blatter paid the Uefa president 2m Swiss francs (£1.35m) in 2011, nine years after both men claimed it was originally due. In addition to being banned, Blatter was fined 50,000 Swiss francs or £34,000 and Platini 80,000 Swiss francs or £54,000.
Speaking at a press conference in Zurich, Blatter – flanked by his daughter Corinne and sporting a plaster on his face caused by having a mole removed – claimed that he was a victim. “To say that it is a good day for me or for Fifa, it would be totally wrong” Blatter said.
“You can identify me as an optimist. Together with a Swiss lawyer, we thought that we had convinced the panel, with Mr Eckert in the chair, about the situation with the payment. We thought that we were in a situation that was clear, with a clean sheet.
“We had a oral contract, a gentleman’s agreement. This was made in 1998 after the World Cup. What astonished me now when I talk about the decision today is that they deny the existence of such an agreement. This agreement was confirmed by two meetings. We have the proof that this agreement existed.
“Therefore the 2m Swiss francs paid to Platini went through the finance committee, the executive committee and was done in good terms. This is a donation. This is a gift. We avoided the issue of corruption. We did this because this arrangement was in the Fifa books. You can have oral contracts. Once again we go to the appeal committee. We go to Cas, the court of arbitration for sport. There might have been an administrative error, but this was nothing to do with the ethics. This cannot be proven. If it cannot be proven, then it cannot be guilty.”
Platini also claimed in a statement that he would also be appealing to Cas, insisting that he was “at peace with my conscience”. He called the action against him “a true mockery. It was orchestrated to tarnish my reputation. I’m convinced that my fate was decided before the December 18 hearing and that this decision is just a pathetic manoeuvre to hide a true will of taking me out of the football world.”
Blatter had appeared before the ethics committee last Thursday, protesting his innocence in a letter to all 209 Fifa members in which he likened the process to the Spanish inquisition. On Monday, he continued to defend himself, making reference to Nelson Mandela.
“Mr Mandela was talking about humanity. Humanity needs no other significance than to respect each other and I say that to celebrate humanity through football was created by this great humanist.
“I will fight,” he added. “I will fight for me and I will fight for Fifa. Suspended for what? I spoke with my lawyer this morning and we were not surprised that the notification was made first to the media. This committee has no right to go against the president of Fifa. The president can only be removed by the congress. Even suspended, I am still the president. I regret, but I am not ashamed.
“I’m really sorry. I’m sorry that I am still somewhere a punching ball. As president of Fifa, I’m still this punching ball. I’m sorry for Fifa. I’m sorry for football. I’m also sorry about me. How I am treated in this world.
“Human beings needs to be respected. It has created a lot of collateral damage in the families. My family was mocked. I regret I am this punching bag. Fifa is still working well, I congratulate Barcelona to winning the Club World Cup. I am a man of principles. These principles are: never take money that is not earned. Secondly, pay your debts. I’ll be back”