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Blatter appeals ban as prosecutors move on former right-hand man

Soccer

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter has lodged an appeal against his six-year ban from soccer for ethics violations, the Court of Arbitration for Sport says.

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The Lausanne-based organisation said on Thursday the 80-year-old Swiss wanted to overturn last month’s decision by the appeals committee of world football’s ruling body FIFA.

Blatter and Michel Platini, president of European football’s governing body UEFA, were banned over a payment of two million Swiss francs ($A2.65 million) made by FIFA to the Frenchman in 2011, with Blatter’s approval, for work done a decade earlier.

Both men have denied any wrong-doing.

Blatter has vowed to “go to the end of my life to show that I’m innocent”.

Platini filed a similar appeal against his suspension earlier this month.

CAS said Blatter and FIFA’s appeals committee would exchange written submissions, with a three-arbitrator panel to be created before a hearing is held.

FIFA is seeking to turn the page on a long-running scandal that escalated in 2015 when police swooped on a luxury Zurich hotel to arrest soccer officials accused by US federal prosecutors of corruption.

Dozens of people have since been charged in investigations that have spanned five continents.

Swiss Gianni Infantino, the former UEFA general secretary, was elected president of FIFA last month and pledged to refocus the organisation on soccer rather than corruption and litigation.

Blatter’s challenge comes as FIFA admits it paid its disgraced former president 3.63 million Swiss francs ($A5.03 million) last year, publishing his salary for the first time under new governance regulations.

FIFA also announced it lost $US122 million ($A161.64 million) in 2015, its first deficit since 2002, attributing that mainly to the costs of battling the worst graft scandal in its history.

In particular, FIFA’s legal fees rose from $US31.29 million in 2014 to $US61.49 million while its reserves dropped from $US1.52 billion to $US1.34 billion.

“The unprecedented events that occurred in 2015 have impacted upon FIFA’s financial results, however the organisation’s healthy reserves have allowed it to weather the storm,” the Swiss-based federation said in a statement.

Several dozen officials, including former members of FIFA’s executive committee, have been indicted in the United States while Blatter has been banned for six years by the ruling body’s ethics committee.

FIFA said Blatter’s former secretary general Jerome Valcke, banned for 12 years, was paid 2.12 million Swiss francs last year. The aggregate remuneration of key management personnel was $US27.9 million.

Blatter had been FIFA president since 1998 and his salary had long been the subject of speculation. It was finally published on Thursday under new rules which were passed in February in an attempt to make FIFA more transparent.

FIFA said it calculated Blatter and Valcke’s payments on the advice of an “independent, external company that specialises in HR and compensation issues.”

Despite the troubles, FIFA said it had revised its projected revenue for the 2015-2018 cycle upwards from $US5 billion to $US5.65 billion, with projected investments amounting to $US5.55 billion.

Last year, Valcke, while still secretary general, admitted that FIFA was having trouble in negotiating new sponsorship deals because of its battered reputation.

Infantino, whose salary has not been revealed, made ambitious promises during his election campaign to increase spending on football development around the world.

Revenue from World Cup sponsors dropped from $US131 million to $US44.5 million in 2015 after contracts with Johnson & Johnson, Castrol and Continental expired at the end of 2014.

However, revenue from FIFA’s top tier partners increased from $US177.1 million to $US180 million.

Meanwhile, Swiss federal prosecutors have announced the launch of criminal proceedings against Valcke on multiple allegations of breach of trust and other offences. 

Valcke served as right-hand man to FIFA boss Joseph Blatter for almost a decade. In February, the ethics committee of football’s world governing body banned Valcke for 12 years. This week’s action was initiated by two criminal complaints in connection with the ban raised by the FIFA ethics committee.

While the 55-year-old Frenchman was not arrested, house searches were conducted.

The ban on Valcke followed an investigation into allegations of potential misconduct related to the sale of World Cup tickets and other violations of FIFA articles on the rules of conduct and ethics.

Valcke, who had been FIFA secretary general since 2007, was first suspended in September as part of the investigations into the corruption scandals that have plagued football’s ruling body. He was sacked by FIFA on January 13.

-Reuters, AP

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