Sepp Blatter says he'll accept CAS verdict of his FIFA ban appeal
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"I do hope it will be positive for me," Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.
The court's verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland's supreme court.
The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.
The so-called "disloyal payment" led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.
FIFA's ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA's appeal committee cut both bans to six years.
Platini's appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.
Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.
Blatter's comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.
"We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world," Blatter said outside CAS.
The three-member panel for Blatter's case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.
A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.
The case already ended Platini's chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.
On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.
The "disloyal payment" emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.
Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.
During the turmoil in world football, Platini's right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.
Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel "will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him."
"This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them," Blatter said.