Platini facing Euro 2016 rebuff as UEFA seek new chief

Basel (Switzerland) (AFP) – French football legend Michel Platini could be barred from attending Euro 2016 in an official capacity following his spectacular fall from grace as president of European football’s ruling body.

Platini, whose successor as head of UEFA will be elected in Athens on September 14, would have awarded the trophy to the tournament winners in his native France on July 10.

But that task has now been handed to Spanish football federation chief Angel Maria Villar, UEFA’s first vice-president and reportedly one of several candidates looking to succeed the Frenchman later this summer.

Platini is still listed as UEFA president on the body’s official website despite “resigning” from his post after a sports tribunal rejected his final appeal against his ban from football over a suspect $2.0 million payment he received from FIFA. 

UEFA’s acting general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said Platini “is still the president” of UEFA because, for them, he remains “suspended” until a new president is elected.

But Theodoridis suggested Platini could be barred by FIFA’s regulations from appearing in any official capacity at Euro 2016 matches.

It means that if one of French football’s favourite sons is seen talking and sipping champagne with officials and VIP’s, Platini could be in breach of FIFA regulations.

Theodoridis said, after eight years of loyal service from Platini: “How can we consider him an enemy?”

But the Greek football chief said UEFA now has to verify with FIFA: “He can buy a ticket and be in any stand… but we are in the process of clarifying exactly what his rights are. We don’t want to violate any FIFA rules.”

UEFA’s legal affairs director Alisdair Bell admitted: “It’s a slightly grey zone – we have to clarify with FIFA. It’s only fair and reasonable for him to know what the sanction means.” 

Asked if UEFA could invite Platini to the tournament, Theodoridis added: “I never said we’re inviting or not inviting (him). But we have to clarify what we can do and what we cannot do. Any decision will follow, and it’s not mine.”

Platini’s fall from grace, meanwhile, will leave UEFA without a president for almost a year by the time they vote to replace the Frenchman in mid-September.

On Wednesday, UEFA confirmed its timeline for the UEFA presidential elections.

“An Extraordinary UEFA Congress will be scheduled for 14 September 2016 in Athens. This Congress will also serve to elect the European female member of the FIFA Council. Candidates for both elections will have until 20 July to formally submit their candidature.”

The race to become Platini’s successor, however, has already begun.

Spanish football chief Villar, who will hand out the trophies to the winners of the Europa League later Wednesday and the Champions League on May 28, is reported to be in the running.

A former professional with Athletic Bilbao and Spain, Villar is effectively acting as UEFA’s president – hence his role in awarding the Euro 2016 trophy later this summer.

Detractors, however, have pointed to Villar’s closeness to ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter before the Swiss’s own fall from grace from football’s top job. A vice-president of FIFA, Villar has been a member of its executive committee since 1998.

Michael van Praag, the long-time president of the Dutch Football Association, is also a candidate.

Portugal’s FA chief Fernando Gomes is also reportedly in the running, and reports in recent days suggested Aleksander Ceferin, the President of the Slovenia Football Federation (NZS), could also bid to succeed Platini.

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