Image: Re-elected FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures during news conference after an extraordinary Executive Committee meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, in this May 30, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files
By Simon Evans
ZURICH (Reuters) – FIFA president Sepp Blatter faces an imminent 90 day suspension from football if the governing body’s ethics judge backs a prosecutor’s recommendation, a close friend and former advisor to Blatter told Reuters on Wednesday.
Blatter’s long-term confidant Klaus Stoehlker said the decision by judge Hans-Joachim Eckert on the provisional suspension was expected by Friday.
“There is no final decision, this is a recommendation from the lower part of the Ethics Committee to the upper part,” said Stoehlker, who added that Blatter had been informed of the development.
“President Blatter will be in his office at FIFA tomorrow,” he said.
FIFA’s ethics code provides for a representative of the Investigatory Chamber to look into a case and make a request to Eckert’s Adjudicatory Chamber to take action.
While Stoehlker said Blatter was “very calm”, a suspension would be a humiliating outcome for the 79-year-old who has been at FIFA for 40 years.
Even after the arrests of FIFA officials in May, which plunged the organisation into crisis, Blatter promised to lead a reform process before standing down in February.
If Eckert does opt for a suspension it would also leave the strife-ridden body without either of its top two officials.
Secretary general Jerome Valcke, Blatter’s right-hand man for the past eight years, was suspended last month after allegations he was involved in a scheme to sell 2014 World Cup tickets at a marked-up price. Valcke denied the charges.
Stoehlker’s comments were not able to be verified by FIFA bodies and FIFA’s media department directed inquiries to Blatter’s lawyers who said he had not been informed of any decision.
“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,” said a joint statement from Swiss lawyer Lorenz Erni and Blatter’s U.S lawyer Richard Cullen.
A spokesman for Eckert declined to comment. A spokesman for the Investigatory Chamber of the Ethics Committee declined to comment citing FIFA’s rules which prohibit them discussing cases.
If Blatter is suspended then under FIFA’s statutes the most senior vice-president, currently African football head Issa Hayatou from Cameroon, would become interim president until an election to choose Blatter’s replacement on February 26.
The 79-year-old Swiss has been president of FIFA since 1998 and has worked for the organisation for 40 years, starting as a technical director before becoming secretary general under former president Joao Havelange in 1981.
Swiss prosecutors last month opened a criminal investigation into Blatter over a Caribbean World Cup TV rights contract he signed, and a 2011 payment of 2 million Swiss francs (£1.34 million) to Platini, whose status the Swiss attorney general has described as being between a witness and an accused person.
Both have denied any wrongdoing.
Media reports have suggested that Platini is also being investigated by the Ethics Committee.
Bound by confidentiality rules, FIFA’s Ethics Committee has not commented on whether Platini is under investigation. Platini’s spokesman declined to comment.
(Reporting By Simon Evans; Editing by Ossian Shine and Richard Balmforth)
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