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Ethics body suspends Blatter, Platini from world soccer
[ZURICH] World soccer chief Sepp Blatter and European boss Michel Platini were suspended on Thursday in a deepening corruption scandal, decapitating the leadership of a sport facing criminal investigations on both sides of the Atlantic.
Blatter, the Swiss who has been president of world governing body Fifa since 1998, was already due to stand down after an election to replace him in February.
Platini, head of European body Uefa, was a frontrunner to replace him. His shrinking election hopes now depend on whether he can overturn the 90-day ban imposed by Fifa's Ethics Committee.
Despite their denials of wrongdoing, both men have gradually been submerged by the scandal that has engulfed the world's most popular sport, beginning with dawn raids and a series of arrests at a Swiss luxury hotel in May. "During this time, the above individuals are banned from all football activities on a national and international level," the ethics committee said.
Fifa said in a statement: "Joseph S. Blatter, for the duration of the 90-day ban, is not allowed to represent Fifa in any capacity, act on the organisation's behalf, or communicate to media or other stakeholders as a Fifa representative." It said his acting replacement was Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, the head of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and Fifa's most senior vice president.
In 2011, Hayatou, 69, was reprimanded by the International Olympics Committee's ethics commission after he confirmed to them that he was paid by Fifa's former marketing agency International Sport and Leisure in 1995.
The IOC said such an action constituted a conflict of interest. Hayatou denied any personal gain or wrongdoing.
In a statement on Thursday, the Cameroonian said he would not be a candidate for Fifa president in February and had taken the role on "only on an interim basis".
If Platini is not able to overturn his ban and join the election race, it would leave Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan as the clear favourite, unless other candidates now emerge to take advantage of the Frenchman's troubles.
South African Tokyo Sexwale, who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela during the apartheid era and later became a politician and businessman, has said he is considering running.
Last week two sources told Reuters that Bahraini Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation, would consider standing if Platini was ruled out.
In further disciplinary moves, Fifa also handed out a 90-day suspension to Secretary General Jerome Valcke, who had already been sent on leave after being accused of being part of a scheme to sell 2014 World Cup tickets at a marked-up price. He denies any wrongdoing.
South Korea's former Fifa Vice-President Chung Mong-joon was banned from the game for six years, a decision which will almost certainly end his already slim electoral hopes.
Swiss and US authorities are both investigating corruption in world soccer, in long-running probes that have so far led to the indictment of 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives. Among other things, they are examining the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
All those banned on Thursday can turn to Fifa's Appeals Committee to try to overturn the bans, but would remain suspended throughout any appeals process.
Blatter's lawyers said he was disappointed he had been suspended without having the chance to be heard. They added he was looking forward to presenting evidence that would prove he did not engage in any misconduct.