Sepp Blatter’s 17-year reign as the Fifa president is all but over after the investigatory arm of its ethics committee provisionally banned him for 90 days before the February election.
The Uefa president, Michel Platini, who was the favourite to succeed his mentor-turned-rival until he too become embroiled in corruption allegations, has been handed an identical sanction, as good as ending his Fifa presidential ambitions.
Both have been under extreme pressure since the Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, opened a criminal investigation into allegations Blatter mis-sold a World Cup TV rights contract to the disgraced former Fifa official Jack Warner in 2006 and made a “disloyal payment” of £1.3m to Platini in 2011. Blatter and Platini deny any wrongdoing.
In addition, the Fifa secretary general Jérôme Valcke, who has already been put on leave for a duration of 90 days, has now been banned for 90 days. Fifa said in a statement: “The duration of the bans may be extended for an additional period not exceeding 45 days.”
The former Fifa vice-president Chung Mong-joon, who had threatened to sue Blatter while claiming that he was being targeted on spurious grounds by the ethics committee to force him out of the race to succeed the president, has been banned for six years and fined £67,000. “The bans come into force immediately,” said Fifa.
The move represents the latest stage in the slow-motion collapse of the Fifa house of cards since US prosecutors sent the organisation spiralling into crisis in May, though the extent to which Fifa remains mired in chaos is reflected in the fact that Issa Hayatou, the longstanding senior Fifa vice-president, is next in line to take over from Blatter.
Hayatou was once censured by the International Olympic Committee over bribery claims, which he denied, and recently changed the statutes of the Confederation of African Football to allow him to retain the presidency he has held since 1988.
At Uefa, the immediate replacement for Platini is likely to be the longstanding Spanish FA chief Ángel María Villar-Llona, who also remains under investigation by the Fifa ethics committee for failing to cooperate with Michael Garcia’s investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
Platini had earlier released a statement criticising an “unacceptable” leak of his probable suspension that he described as “essentially an attempt to damage my reputation”.
He added: “I have always acted and expressed myself with honesty, courage and candour, as I feel that this is my moral duty. If what is being reported regarding the intentions of the investigatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee is indeed true, I will stop at nothing to ensure that the truth is known. Nobody should be in any doubt as to my determination to achieve that objective.”
Blatter was re-elected in May days after US prosecutors alleged a “World Cup of fraud” in a 164-page indictment and charged 14 individuals, including nine current or former Fifa executives, with a series of offences. Days later he promised to stand down in February 2016 and has repeatedly reiterated his desire to remain in post until then.
Blatter is technically be free to return in January before the extraordinary congress he has called on 26 February to decide his successor.
Platini had submitted his papers early on Thursday morning to stand as a candidate for the Fifa presidency but his hopes of succeeding Blatter appear to have been dealt a terminal blow.