Sepp Blatter ‘will still have support in football’

David Davies: There is still 'loyalty' to Blatter. Picture: Getty
David Davies: There is still 'loyalty' to Blatter. Picture: Getty
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Former Football Association executive director David Davies believes Sepp Blatter will still have support in world football, despite his eight-year ban.

The 79-year-old was suspended from football yesterday with Uefa president Michel Platini on Monday, who was hit with the same punishment.

The pair have been banned by Fifa’s ethics committee judge Hans-Joachim Eckert for a “disloyal payment” of 2 million Swiss francs (£1.3 million) to Platini which was signed off by Blatter in 2011.

The bans are immediate and end Platini’s slim hopes of running for the Fifa presidency on 26 February.

Both outgoing Fifa president Blatter and Platini will appeal the ruling and Davies feels some of Blatter’s support will remain.

“Whatever we think in England it will be interesting to hear the reaction of the 137 countries who voted for Mr Blatter as president only last May. Don’t assume all of them will be rejoicing today,” he said.

“It appears to me Sepp Blatter genuinely believes he has done nothing wrong and that, to me, is the heart of all this.”

The FA had previously supported Platini in his bid for the FIFA presidency before suspending it in October following the payment allegations and Davies believes the FA has the opportunity to change as well.

He added: “There is a lot of loyalty in football,” he said. “It was quite logical for Europe to throw up England supporting the president of European football until it was proven and today he has been found guilty of doing something wrong. It is very clear he does not believe he has done something wrong.

“There will be questions asked within the FA. There will be reform proposals brought forward by chairman Greg Dyke in January to put its corporate governance standards up to a new level. This is a fundamental moment where they must be supported.”

Ex-FA chairman David Bernstein, who retired from his position in 2013 to give way to Dyke, also feels Blatter will not be able to win any appeal. “He’s a drowning man really, there’s no coming back from this,” he said. “He’ll fight, He’s not a soft touch. He will fight, but he is doomed. He is yesterday’s man.”

But Patrick Nelson, the Irish FA chief executive, believes the pair need to be given time and understanding to prepare their appeal defence.

“We have to bear in mind Mr Blatter and Mr Platini have a right to due process. The decision has come out today and both have been banned for eight years but both have ways forward in appealing. We need to give them that freedom,” he said.

“I think it’s a complex matter. We haven’t see what evidence the ethics committee has been able to review.”

Meanwhile, FIFA reform campaigner Damian Collins has welcomed news but called for continued investigation.

Collins, a member of the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, said the bans must be followed by further reform.

“We will see in the next few months whether this is the end of FIFA too. They have to implement wide-ranging reforms of the organisation, led by an independent outside body,” the MP told Sky Sports News.

“The fish rots from the head down and we know how rotten the head of FIFA was and we now have to find out just how much of the organisation has been infected.

“They have outlined changes they want to put to the FIFA congress in February, a lot of those changes are a step in the right direction.

“What there has to be is proper independent scrutiny of what FIFA does and stop the president of FIFA holding the same power that Sepp Blatter held in the past, where you have a small elite group of people with very little scrutiny of what they do.”

Blatter’s personal adviser Klaus Stoehlker confirmed he will appeal against the ban, and is prepared to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, but Collins believes he will fail.

He said: “I’ve heard Sepp Blatter is going to appeal but really there is no point. It’s quite clear he made this payment without a contract. It was delayed for eight years and paid just before the FIFA presidential elections.

“That was clearly a conflict of interest and I don’t really think he has got a leg to stand on.”

Clive Efford MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Sport, also wants to see total reform at FIFA ahead of next year’s presidential election.

“It is clear that there is no prospect of FIFA being reformed by anyone associated with the old regime,” Efford told the BBC.

“FIFA needs new leadership and should place itself in administration under a body led by someone with no history of involvement in its corrupt past to clean up its reputation.

“This is the only chance left of restoring credibility to the governance of world football.”