Football legend Platini questioned by French police over Qatar World Cup bid

The fallout over the controversial decision to award Qatar sport’s most high-profile and lucrative event took one of its most intriguing twists to date yesterday after Michel Platini, the former president of European football’s governing body, was detained for questioning by French police.

Michel Platini with fellow France legend Zinedine Zidane (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The 63-year-old, one of the world’s most lauded players in his heyday, has never denied voting for the small Gulf state to host the 2022 World Cup, but has always rejected any claims of wrongdoing.

He was detained yesterday morning in a suburb of Paris, France’s financial prosecutor’s office confirmed.

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The Parquet National Financier has been investigating the December 2010 decision to stage football’s biggest tournament in Qatar for the past three years.

The wealthy state beat bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States in a vote by the executive committee of world football’s governing body FIFA, but more than half of that 22-man panel have now been accused of receiving bribes.

Platini was head of UEFA until 2015 when he was handed an eight-year ban over ethics breaches that was later reduced to four years on appeal. The ban expires this October and he has previously indicated his desire to return to football politics.

Platini and former FIFA boss Sepp Blatter were banned for eight years by FIFA’s ethics committee in December 2015, although a FIFA appeal body reduced that to six years for a “disloyal payment” of £1.5m paid by Blatter to Platini.

The pair then made separate appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which upheld Blatter’s sanction but cut a further two years off Platini’s. Blatter has always denied any wrongdoing.

The French authorities have also arrested Sophie Dion, a former adviser of ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and questioned Claude Gueant, Sarkozy’s ex-chief of staff.

Sarkozy’s support for Qatar’s World Cup bid has been the subject of considerable speculation for several years and it is understood the French authorities want to know what promises were made at a lunch at the French premier’s Elysee Palace on 23 November 2010 - 10 days before the FIFA vote.

Present at that lunch were Platini, Sarkozy, the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al Thani and Qatar’s former prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad Ben Jassim.

It is no secret that Sarkozy was eager to foster close economic links with Qatar, but the investigation is also looking into the June 2011 deal that saw Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund the French leader’s favourite football team, Paris St Germain, and the subsequent launch of BeIN Sports, the Doha-based media company run by PSG’s chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi. Al-Khelaifi has denied any wrongdoing.

Platini is regarded as one of France’s greatest ever footballers alongside Zinedine Zidane. He won the 1984 European Championship with France, as well as the Ballon d’Or in three successive seasons.

His representatives yesterday issued a statement stressing he had not been arrested by French police, and that the detention was for a “technical” reason to maintain the confidentiality of the interview.

A spokesman for FIFA said: “FIFA reiterates its full commitment to co-operating with the authorities in any given country of the world where investigations are taking place in connection with football activities.”

UEFA declined to comment on Platini’s detention.