UEFA president suspended from all football activities for 90 days
13 October ~ It would be fair to say that the fanfare in France last July that greeted the announcement that Michel Platini would be standing for FIFA president was louder than the reaction to the news last week that he had been suspended from his post as head of UEFA.
The move came because of the ongoing investigation into the 2 million Swiss francs (£1.35m) he received from former mentor Sepp Blatter in 2011. Sports daily L’Équipe may have covered the story by using a front-page picture of Blatter with his arm around Platini and the headline I’ll Bring You Down With Me but there has been a general reluctance to point the finger of blame at the 60-year-old former France captain.
Across the board the reporting has stuck almost exclusively to either facts we already know or simply detailing events as they have emerged. Which is fair enough, you might think – after all, Platini has denied any wrongdoing and is appealing against the 90-day ban the FIFA ethics committee has imposed. Yet the near-absence of scepticism, suspicion or even the most basic questioning about exactly why Platini might have received a large sum of money for work that had been completed nine years earlier suggests certain media outlets would prefer it if this story wasn’t happening.
Several media organisations have left it to others to put the boot in. Saturday’s L’Équipe devoted a page-lead to an interview with Michael Hershman, formerly a member of FIFA’s independent governance committee – and he didn’t hold back. “Platini might talk about reforms now, but when he was in a position to change things, he didn’t do it,” Hershman said. “He wasn’t a big fan of our committee. He might have plenty of friends and support in the ‘FIFA community’, but let me tell you – if he had become FIFA president the outside world would have seen him as a member of the old clique rather than as an agent of change. For me, Platini is not good for the future of FIFA. He belongs to the past and is part of the problem.”
Where there have been opportunities to offer tacit support to the man under siege, the French media have taken them. In this week’s edition, Le Journal du Dimanche ran a piece entitled Candidate Platini Must Be Saved, in which they suggested that Platini was considering hiring high-profile lawyers to help his defence and mentioned that the president, François Hollande, had made a personal call to Platini last week. The same day, L’Équipe’s only reference to the ongoing scandal was to point out that South American federation Conmebol was still backing the former Juventus midfielder.
The French sports media are not averse to criticising their own – they spent years harping on about the strike the France squad went on at the 2010 World Cup, for example. If and when Platini is found guilty of any wrongdoing, it will be interesting to see whether they come down on him with the same force. James Eastham