GENEVA, Sept 27, (Agencies): Bookmakers slashed the odds that European soccer boss Michel Platini will succeed Sepp Blatter as head of global soccer body FIFA, after Swiss prosecutors said they were investigating Blatter over a payment to Platini.
Platini, a former French midfielder and head of European soccer body UEFA since 2007, had been “odds on” favourite to succeed Blatter when FIFA elects its new leader in five months, meaning he was seen as likelier to get the job than not.
However, bookmaker William Hill said it had slashed its odds on Platini getting the job to 11/10 from 1/3. Instead of being three times as likely to become FIFA president as not, Platini was now likelier than not to lose out.
“He is no longer odds-on favourite,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly.
Platini has the strong support of a number of national soccer associations, especially in Europe. However, if he himself were to become the target of an investigation by FIFA’s ethics body, he could be suspended, making it impossible to stand.
FIFA was thrown into fresh turmoil on Friday when the Swiss attorney general’s office (OAG) opened criminal proceedings against Blatter, who was questioned at his federation’s headquarters, on suspicion of criminal mismanagement.
The OAG said Blatter, who has been FIFA president since 1998, was suspected of making a “disloyal payment” of 2 million Swiss francs ($2.04 million) to Platini in 2011.
Platini was also questioned as a witness. UEFA, where he is now president, said the questions concerned a payment Platini received for work he did for FIFA on contract from 1999-2001.
Several media outlets have speculated that FIFA could launch its own investigation into Platini, Blatter or both, potentially resulting in a provisional suspension that might coincide with the election for a new FIFA boss.
A spokesman for FIFA’s chief ethics investigator Cornel Borbely would not comment on whether either man would become the target of an investigation, but said the committee had the power to investigate anyone in global soccer regardless of position.
People who are placed under investigation may or may not be suspended, depending on the circumstances. Any request for a provisional suspension has to be approved by Hans-Joachim Eckert, a Munich-based judge who is responsible for deciding on sanctions when the FIFA ethics code is violated.
Candidates must formally submit their intention to stand for the FIFA presidency by Oct 26, four months before the election. Provisional bans last for 90 days and are renewable for another 45, long enough to make Platini potentially miss the deadline.
If he stands for president, Platini must also face an integrity test conducted by Borbely’s committee.
When seven soccer officials and sports marketing executives were arrested in Zurich in May after being indicted in the United States on corruption charges, they were provisionally suspended by the ethics committee the same day.
FIFA should appoint an interim leader to replace embattled president Sepp Blatter to make reforms and steer it out of its massive corruption scandal, a former FIFA reform chief said Sunday.
“It would be ideal to have a president who would step down after two years,” Swiss criminal law professor Mark Pieth, who previously headed FIFA’s independent governance committee, told Swiss broadcaster SRF.
What was needed was someone who could “come in now to allay fears and make reforms, before making room for someone who could preside for longer,” he said, suggesting Theo Zwanziger, the former head of the German football association, was the best man for the interim job.