By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) – Suspended European soccer chief Michel Platini may be able to run for president of FIFA if he wins an appeal against his 90-day ban, the world governing body said on Tuesday.
Outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Platini were both suspended earlier this month, plunging FIFA into even deeper turmoil as authorities in the United States and Switzerland pursue corruption investigations in which 14 people have so far been indicted.
Meeting for the first time since the suspensions of the two most powerful men in soccer, FIFA’s executive committee confirmed that the election to replace Blatter would take place at an extraordinary Congress in Zurich on Feb. 26, when members would also vote on reforming the organisation’s statutes.
That initially looked like a blow for former French midfield star Platini: a delay in the election would have given him more time to appeal, as candidates have to register by Oct. 26 and undergo an integrity test in the following 10 days.
Domenico Scala, who oversees the electoral process, told the committee that candidates’ bids would not be processed if they were banned, FIFA said in a statement.
But a subsequent line appeared to give hope to Platini. It read: “Should such a ban be lifted or expire before the FIFA presidential election….the Ad-Hoc electoral committee would decide, depending on the respective exact point in time, on how to proceed with the candidacy concerned.”
Whoever next takes the helm at FIFA will face a huge challenge to restore the reputation of the organisation responsible for running the most popular sport on the planet.
Platini’s appeal will first have to go to the FIFA Appeal Committee and, if unsuccessful, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), a process which UEFA said last week should be competed by mid-November.
Platini, who has been UEFA president since 2007, had until his suspension been considered the firm favourite to succeed Blatter. Since then, the race has been thrown open.
The only other candidates to register so far are Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and former Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid, who have both submitted the required five nominations from national associations.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Asian soccer chief, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, said he had been urged to stand but was still gauging opinion.
Sources close to UEFA have said they are still uncertain if Europe will find an alternative candidate to Platini before the deadline.
(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, Simon Evans and Brian Homewood; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)