More than six months after he announced he would eventually be ending his nearly two-decade reign atop the world’s largest soccer organization, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been banned from the sport for eight years.
This morning, FIFA’s Ethics Committee, which has been investigating allegations of bribery and corruption at the highest level of the heavily criticized organization behind the Wold Cup and many other major international soccer events, announced that the ban is effective immediately.
Blatter, who had been reelected as FIFA president only days before declaring his intention to leave the office, was targeted by investigators over a Feb. 2011 payment to Michel Platini, FIFA VP and President of UEFA. Platini, who has acknowledged the payment but denied any corruption, has also been suspended for eight years by FIFA.
FIFA says there was no indication that Platini received the money for any “execution or omission of an official act.” Platini had claimed that the payments were for advisory work he’d provided to FIFA as far back as 1998, when Blatter ascended to the presidency. And in fact, there is a 1999 written agreement regarding this transaction. However, FIFA says that this document “had no legal basis.” The organization was similarly unconvinced by claims of a gentleman’s oral agreement between Blatter, who authorized the payment, and Platini.
“By failing to place FIFA’s interests first and abstain from doing anything which could be contrary to FIFA’s interests, Mr Blatter violated his fiduciary duty to FIFA,” reads a statement from the organization. “Mr Blatter’s actions did not show commitment to an ethical attitude, failing to respect all applicable laws and regulations as well as FIFA’s regulatory framework to the extent applicable to him and demonstrating an abusive execution of his position as President of FIFA.”
Both men say they plan to appeal their suspensions.
Blatter has been under fire at FIFA since almost the beginning of his presidency. In 2002, others in the organization accused him in court of misusing FIFA funds and mismanaging its finances. Questions of bribery have surrounded the upcoming World Cups in Russia and Qatar.
The latter host country has been particularly problematic for FIFA following reports of large numbers of deaths and injuries at construction sites for the event, along with repeated allegations of human rights violations.
Several of FIFA’s major World Cup sponsors, have been pressured to use their leverage to drive Blatter out and force change at the organization. Most famously, John Oliver pledged to eat everything off the McDonald’s menu and drink a Bud Light Lime if these companies could bring about the end of the Blatter era. When it happened… he did.
In October, amid increasing legal scrutiny for Blatter, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa, and Budweiser each called for the president to step down. Blatter refused, but was subsequently suspended.
In an act of hubris that hasn’t helped Blatter, FIFA produced a $30 million hagiographic film about its president and all the wonderful things he’s done for soccer. Somehow, it managed to earn a whopping $918 in its opening weekend, making it the worst box office opening ever in the U.S.