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Spotlight falls on Platini


Spotlight falls on Platini

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ZURICH – Key nations backing European football boss Michel Platini as the next FIFA President are adopting a more cautious approach to his bid while Swiss authorities investigating graft at world football’s governing body look into a $2 million payment it made to him.

Bookmakers’ odds on Platini to win the February vote have markedly lengthened since Friday when Swiss police placed president of 17 years Sepp Blatter under criminal investigation and accused him of making a “disloyal payment” of two million Swiss francs (£1.35 million) to Platini in 2011 for work deemed to have been performed between January 1999 and June 2002.

Both Platini and Blatter deny wrongdoing over the affair, part of a broader scandal that began unfolding in May when 14 football officials and marketing executives were indicted in the United States for bribery, money laundering and wire fraud.

But a number of federations say they might review support for Platini depending on results of an inquiry into the payment.

While not dropping their backing for Platini, the English, German and Italian federations have expressed concerns over the allegations while the Swedish FA said the case could interfere with their support.

The European football federation UEFA said Platini had met with investigators as a witness; but on Tuesday, Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber said Platini was considered as somewhere “between a witness and an accused person”.

Platini said on Wednesday the nine-year delay between his work as an advisor to Blatter and the payment, was because FIFA were unable to pay his full salary in 2002 because of their financial situation.

FIFA’s 2002 financial report cited a 115 million Swiss Franc surplus for the period 1999-2002.

England’s FA issued a statement after a meeting on Wednesday, recalling it had unanimously backed Platini in July.

“We did so because we thought he was an excellent President of UEFA and could bring those same leadership qualities to FIFA. We are still of that view.

“However, events of recent days have raised a number of issues which do need to be fully examined. We are following the ongoing investigation initiated by the Swiss Attorney General with which Mr Platini is co-operating in full.”

The February 26 election will take place in Zurich, and each of FIFA’s 209 national associations will have one vote. (Reuters)