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FIFA ethics committee bans Blatter for 8 years

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has vowed to "fight" his suspension after himself and European soccer boss Michel Platini were both banned from soccer for eight years on Monday by the ethics committee of the sport's global governing body.

The pair, who were also fined, had been suspended for 90 days in October while an investigation was carried out into a 2 million Swiss franc ($2.02 million) payment by FIFA to Platini in 2011.

Both claimed that the payment was made due to an oral agreement between the pair in 1998 when Platini worked as an adviser to Blatter up until 2002. But FIFA said there was "no legal basis" for the agreement.

"Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment. His assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber," FIFA said in a statement.

Both men denied any wrongdoing and Blatter said he would use the legal system to appeal if necessary.

"I will fight. I will fight for me and I will fight for FIFA," Blatter told reporters at a press conference Monday, adding that he would take his complaints to FIFA's appeals body or use Swiss law if needed.

"I'm a Swiss citizen. In the Swiss law if you are suspended for eight years you must have committed something very, very important," he said.

'A very expensive man'

FIFA's ethics committee concluded that the payment from Blatter to Platini did not constitute bribery, but did break the rules about offering gifts and put the banned FIFA president in a "conflict of interest". The lack of disclosure around the payment did not show "commitment to an ethical attitude," the committee said.

Blatter said that the payment arose when Platini asked the FIFA president in 1998 whether he could come and work for soccer's world governing body. Blatter recalled how Platini said that he was "a very expensive man," to which Blatter replied that he would pay him at a later date, hence the 2 million Swiss franc payment in 2011.

The disgraced FIFA president also said that other people knew about this arrangement, including Jacques Lambert, the chair of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament's organizing committee. At the press conference, Blatter accused the FIFA ethics committee of trying to build a case against him and subsequently banning him on evidence that was not true.

"If it is not proven then it cannot be true," Blatter said.

He admitted that he should have put the payment "somewhere in the books," but added that this was merely a "financial or administrative" error and "nothing to do" with ethics.

The decision to ban the duo, which comes as a corruption scandal swirls around FIFA, means that Blatter's 17 years at the helm of world soccer will end in disgrace, and spells the end of Platini's hopes of replacing the 79-year-old in a presidential election in February.

Platini, a former France international who was one of the finest players of his generation and had led the European soccer body UEFA since 2002, had been the favorite to win that election until he was suspended.

'Regret but not ashamed'

Blatter also used the press conference Monday as a chance to hit out against FIFA, explaining he felt "betrayed" as well as offering a somewhat non-apology.

"I am sorry. I am sorry that I am still, somewhere, a punching ball. I am sorry that as president of FiIFA I am a punching ball. I am sorry for football (soccer)," he said.

In an impassioned speech, Blatter also criticized FIFA for revealing details of his ban to the media before he found out. He also blamed journalists for his downfall, and insisted he is still the president of soccer's governing body.

"I'm still the president, even suspended...the president…must be relieved of his duties otherwise you cannot elect another president," Blatter said.

"I regret but I am not ashamed. I am ashamed if you go in depth what has been presented and how all this has been done, with the support of you (journalists), you were there to also to condemn the FIFA president at the very beginning." he added.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Michael Buholzer | AFP | Getty Images
FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

The ethics inquiry began in the wake of the Swiss attorney general's decision to open criminal proceedings against Blatter over the payment to Platini. The office is also investigating the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals to Russia and Qatar.

In the United States, prosecutors have indicted 27 current or former soccer officials, including eight former FIFA executive committee members, over allegations that they ran bribery schemes connected to the sale of television rights for soccer competitions. Twelve people and two sports marketing companies have been convicted.