English FA gives conditional backing to Michel Platini for FIFA presidency

London: England's Football Association on Wednesday gave new backing to Frenchman Michel Platini to become FIFA president but said questions over his naming in a Swiss criminal investigation have to be answered.

Michel Platini. Pic/PTI
Michel Platini. Pic/PTI

The fast-moving FIFA corruption storm was discussed at an FA meeting on Wednesday, and the English game's governing body said it still supports Platini. "In July, The FA board decided unanimously to support Michel Platini if he intended to stand for the presidency of FIFA. 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," said the statement.

"However, events of recent days have raised a number of issues which do need to be fully examined." The FA board said it was "following the ongoing investigation initiated by the Swiss attorney general with which Mr Platini is co-operating with in full. "We also recognise that Mr Platini has contacted the FIFA ethics committee inviting them to look into the matter and to interview him.

"As we said back in July, the most important matter is the urgent reform of FIFA. We believe the whole structure of FIFA needs to be fundamentally changed and we are committed to our efforts to ensure this happens." Swiss investigators have placed FIFA president Sepp Blatter under criminal investigation, and part of their inquiry is into a $2 million payment made by football's world governing body to Platini, president of UEFA.

Platini worked for FIFA as an advisor to Blatter from 1998 until 2002, but only received a $2 million payment authorised by Blatter in 2011. Switzerland's Attorney General Michael Lauber has said there is evidence that the payment was against FIFA's interests. Platini, 60, told AFP on Tuesday his compensation was delayed because of financial constraints at FIFA in 1998-2002.

The state of the world body's finances for the period are unclear, however. - Unclear finances -According to a FIFA financial report published in April 2003, the world governing body had a surplus of 115 million Swiss francs ($118m) for 1999-2002. But, in the same report, FIFA said it expected a loss of 134 million Swiss francs in May of 2002, when Platini finished his work as an advisor and joined FIFA's executive committee.

Those losses were linked to a bankruptcy scandal that hit International Sports and Leisure (ISL), a Swiss media and marketing firm that was a key FIFA partner. A source familiar with FIFA's finances at the time, but who requested anonymity, said the organisation had enough money to pay Platini. The English FA threw its weight behind Platini in July having nominated and backed Prince Ali bin al Hussein, a Jordanian former FIFA vice president, when he challenged Blatter in May's elections.

Prince Ali remains a candidate in the election to be held on February 26 along with South Korean billionaire Chung Mong-Joon, another former FIFA vice president. Blatter won reelection to a fifth term in May just days after US investigators announced charges against 14 FIFA officials and sports business executives over more than $150 million of bribes for contracts. Four days later he said he would stand down when the new election is held. Despite the Swiss inquiry, the 79-year-old Blatter has said he will not leave early.

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