Blatter and Platini Lose FIFA Appeals and Remain Suspended

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Sepp Blatter will remain suspended from his job for now.

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Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Sepp Blatter’s latest effort to keep hold of power at FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, has failed.

On Wednesday, FIFA announced that it had rejected appeals by Mr. Blatter, the organization’s president, and Michel Platini, president of the European soccer confederation, challenging the 90-day suspensions imposed on them last month in the wake of reports about a financial transaction between the two men for which Mr. Blatter is under criminal investigation.

The decision means Mr. Blatter, who has led FIFA since 1998, remains forbidden to set foot in the organization’s headquarters, a short walk from his apartment in Zurich, or to conduct any business related to the sport while an internal review of the transaction continues; that review is expected to conclude before the 90 days expire, in early January.

Mr. Platini, too, is barred from the sport for that time, though the European confederation has expressed some support for him as the organization’s vice president has assumed his daily responsibilities.

In the interim, the men have the option of appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The rejection of the appeal came days after Mr. Blatter, 79, was in the hospital for a stress-related medical condition. His lawyers did not immediately respond to request for comment.

On Sept. 25, Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General announced it had opened an inquiry into a payment of roughly $2 million that Mr. Blatter made in 2011 to Mr. Platini, a member of FIFA’s executive committee who has aspired to succeed Mr. Blatter as president. The money was for work done a decade earlier, the men said, and there was no corresponding written contract for it.

Swiss officials said their investigation into the transaction centered on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and misappropriation of funds.

Two weeks after Switzerland made its inquiry public, FIFA’s ethics committee reacted to the allegations. On Oct. 8, FIFA suspended both men amid an internal investigation into the transaction.

Mr. Blatter’s appeal to FIFA had centered on the organization’s decision to suspend him while that internal review took place. In their appeal, Mr. Blatter’s lawyers argued that the suspension was premature and without evidence, violating the principle, embraced by Switzerland, that people under investigation are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

Wednesday’s announcement was a procedural development — an affirmation of the provisional ban — that will keep Mr. Blatter and Mr. Platini out of power until a final decision, be it a dismissal of the accusations or a longer exile from the sport, is delivered, perhaps as soon as late November.

Before that ruling comes, but after FIFA has completed its internal review and recommended a course of action to the organization’s adjudicatory body, Mr. Blatter and Mr. Platini will have the opportunity to be heard by the deciding judge and present a defense.

Mr. Platini, too, has been hurt by the accusations, and the likelihood of his winning the FIFA presidency — previously seen to be high — is increasingly unlikely, after an electoral committee’s completion of mandatory background checks on possible candidates, which did not include him due to his 90-day suspension.

The election of Mr. Blatter’s successor is set to take place on Feb. 26. Five men — including one, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain, who has defended himself against allegations of human rights abuse — have been cleared to run for the position.

The scrutiny of Mr. Blatter and Mr. Platini comes as FIFA engages in extensive self-examination in the wake of racketeering conspiracy and corruption charges brought by the United States in May against nine FIFA officials. Both the United States and Switzerland are continuing with criminal inquiries into further possible corruption within the sport, and FIFA, seen as a victim of the alleged crimes, is seeking to aid the unfolding investigations by both countries.

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