PARIS (Reuters) – Suspended UEFA president Michel Platini lodged an appeal with FIFA against his 90-day ban from the game on Saturday while French soccer’s governing body said it would back him if he went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The Frenchman, who hopes to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA president at an election due in February, was suspended on Thursday along with Blatter pending their investigation by FIFA’s independent ethics committee.
Both men deny wrongdoing, but the suspension of the two most powerful leaders in world football has thrown FIFA into deeper turmoil as U.S. and Swiss authorities probe graft allegations.
A spokesman for Platini confirmed he had formally appealed his suspension, which South America’s football confederation called “disproportionate” and “untimely”.
The French Football Federation (FFF), meanwhile, said it would back Platini if he eventually went to the Lausanne-based CAS in the case that FIFA’s appeal committee upheld the ban.
CAS is a quasi-judicial body that resolves disputes in sport, often between individuals and disciplinary bodies.
“The FFF has adopted the principle of an appeal if the decision of the FIFA appeal committee does not go Michel Platini’s way,” a federation spokesman told Reuters.
The federation expects FIFA’s appeal committee to reach a decision on the matter within eight days.
FIFA’s ethics probe followed reports of a payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.06 million) from FIFA to Platini in 2011, nine years after he completed a spell working for Blatter as an adviser.
The Swiss Attorney General said on Sept. 25 it had opened a criminal investigation into Blatter concerning the payment and a separate Caribbean television rights deal. Platini is regarded as somewhere “between a witness and an accused person” in the payment case, the Attorney General has said.
FIFA is due to hold an election on Feb. 26 to replace the outgoing Blatter. FIFA’s election committee will decide on who will be accepted as full candidates shortly after the deadline for nominations on Oct. 26.
That deadline could pose problems for Platini if he remains under a provisional ban, as he may find it difficult to pass an integrity check.
On Friday, FIFA announced it would hold an extraordinary Executive Committee meeting on Oct. 20 after pressure from some UEFA associations including England’s Football Association.
A postponement of the election, which would help give Platini time for his appeal, is likely to be on the agenda.
Two sources with knowledge of the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Friday FIFA was considering delaying the election. A FIFA spokesperson said “for the time being, the schedule is as it is.”
South American football confederation CONMEBOL criticised Platini’s suspension and said he was the right man to lead FIFA.
“Mr Platini has not been found guilty of any accusation and his provisional suspension puts at risk the integrity of the electoral process for the presidency of FIFA,” it said.
(Writing and additional reporting by Simon Evans in Zurich and Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Helen Popper)