Sepp Blatter has been told he is facing a 90-day provisional suspension from FIFA’s ethics committee – a move which would finally spell the end of his time as president.
FIFA’s ethics committee met this week after the Swiss attorney general opened criminal proceedings against Blatter over a £1.3m payment to UEFA President Michel Platini.
It is understood the investigatory arm has recommended a 90-day suspension for Blatter but that the German adjudicatory judge Joachim Eckert has yet to make a final decision.
Klaus Stohlker, a friend and adviser to Blatter, said that FIFA’s ethics committee has made the ruling pending further investigations by the Swiss attorney general.
He described it as a “pending” verdict, and said no negative finding had been made against Blatter.
“There is no suspension active. President Blatter was told he could be suspended for 90 days,” said Stohlker.
“The first floor [investigatory chamber] has taken the decision today – they have taken the decision. That’s why the second [adjudicatory chamber] needs to take the decision. We do not know when that second decision will be taken.”
Blatter’s lawyers, however, later released a statement claiming their client was unaware of any suspension or disciplinary action.
“We issue this statement in response to press reports about the FIFA Ethics Committee,” said Blatter’s Swiss lawyer Lorenz Erni of Erni Brun Forrer.
“President Blatter has not been notified of any action taken by the FIFA Ethics Committee.
“We would expect that the Ethics Committee would want to hear from the President and his counsel, and conduct a thorough review of the evidence, before making any recommendation to take disciplinary action.”
Wednesday’s events come just hours after Blatter criticised the criminal investigation against him in Switzerland, describing it as “outrageous”.
The Swiss also defended his decision to remain as head of the football organising body and not step down immediately, as worldwide sponsors have urged.
The 90-day suspension is the longest FIFA’s ethics committee can hand down while they carry out their investigation.
Blatter has had criminal proceedings opened against him by the Swiss Attorney General over the case and for allegedly selling World Cup TV rights to former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner for 20 times below their true value.
It is not known if any action has been recommended against Platini.
The payment to Platini being investigated was made in February 2011 for work he carried out as Blatter’s technical advisor more than nine years previously, between 1999 and 2002.
Platini does not feel the need to publicly justify his £1.35m payment from FIFA despite questions being raised about the nine-year delay in receiving the money.
The Frenchman has not publicly explained the reason for such a lengthy delay beyond that when he started his role as Blatter’s advisor in 1999 he was told “that it was not initially possible to pay the totality of my salary because of FIFA’s financial situation at that time”.
Platini says he is still determined to run for the FIFA presidency and has provided all the necessary information to the investigating authorities