Michel Platini plans to speak at UEFA election despite FIFA ban
GENEVA (AP) — Michel Platini plans to speak at the UEFA presidential election to replace him next week, despite his current FIFA ban from soccer politics.
A spokesman for his Paris-based lawyers said Wednesday that Platini had been invited to the Sept. 14 meeting in Athens by UEFA, and wanted to address delegates as part of a handover of the final two and a half years of his presidential mandate.
However, it is unclear if Platini is allowed to attend under the terms of his four-year ban for conflict of interest, over a $2 million payment he received in 2011 from FIFA.
A spokesman for FIFA's judging chamber said: "This would have to be decided by Mr (Hans-Joachim) Eckert as chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee. However, so far, he has not yet received a respective request by UEFA."
UEFA also invited its outgoing president to European Championship matches in June and July since his final appeal case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport failed to overturn the ban.
Platini did not attend any Euro 2016 games in his native France despite FIFA ethics committee advice that he could go to stadiums but not discuss business with former colleagues.
The election is a head-to-head between UEFA vice president Michael van Praag of the Netherlands and Slovenian soccer federation leader Aleksander Ceferin. Angel Maria Villar of Spain withdrew from the race on Tuesday.
England backed Van Praag on Wednesday, though it is a rare public endorsement for the 68-year-old former Ajax club president compared to public pledges for Ceferin among the 55 UEFA members.
English Football Association vice chairman David Gill said Wednesday that Van Praag "would be able to provide the strong and credible leadership European football requires at a crucial moment for the global game."
Van Praag is the "right choice to bring all aspects of the European game closer together," said Gill, who is also a UEFA vice president.
France and Germany have backed Ceferin, who was little known before the campaign but has also attracted support in eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
Poland's federation—led by Zbigniew Boniek, a former teammate of Platini at Juventus—also came out for Ceferin on Wednesday.
Tensions between the two candidates have risen ahead of attending meetings on Thursday with voters in Copenhagen.
Responding to a Norwegian magazine's investigation into Ceferin's alleged alliance with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Van Praag wrote on Twitter that UEFA did not need a "power hungry politician."
Denmark's federation, which hosts the candidates on Thursday, had welcomed Ceferin's candidacy in June in a joint letter with regional neighbors Sweden, Finland and Norway. The four nations are also preparing a co-hosting bid for the 2024 European Championship.
Still, the Danish federation and national league made a joint statement Wednesday that they also want to discuss UEFA's recently agreed changes to the Champions League for the 2018-21 seasons.
The deal guarantees more entries and tens of millions of dollars in prize money to clubs from the top four-ranked leagues—currently Spain, Germany, England and Italy—at the expense of mid-ranked countries like Denmark.
The Danish soccer bodies said they shared "great dissatisfaction with the process."
"The process was wrong, the result is wrong," Danish league CEO Claus Thomsen said. "A fundamental change of the format has been rushed through UEFA and the ECA (European Club Association) even though a new UEFA President will be elected in a week's time and even though there are no publicly elected leadership in UEFA."
Van Praag and Ceferin both say they oppose Europe's top clubs breaking away to form a Super League. However, Danish officials say they fear a de facto Super League created within UEFA in partnership with elite clubs.
Influential clubs, including Juventus and Real Madrid, were seen to have exploited the absence of Platini, the UEFA president since 2007, to pressure the European soccer body this year for a more favorable deal.