The Scottish FA is ready to withdraw its support from Michel Platini in the Fifa presidential election and back Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino instead.
Stewart Regan, the Scottish FA chief executive, has expressed his disappointment in Platini, who is serving a 90-day suspension imposed by the Fifa Ethics Committee over a contentious £1.35 million payment he received from world football’s governing body in 2011 which was sanctioned by their president Sepp Blatter.
Platini remains one of seven candidates to succeed Blatter when the election takes place in February. The Uefa chief executive insists he will clear his name and is not guilty of any wrong-doing in accepting the payment for work carried out on Blatter’s behalf.
But Regan believes Platini faces a struggle to reclaim his credibility in the eyes of those Fifa members, including Scotland, who had previously declared their support for him.
“It’s fair to say I feel disappointment in him [Platini] that he is in this position,” said Regan. “Prior to the disclosure of the payment from Blatter, he was being seen as a very strong candidate. We had put in our letter of support as had tens of associations across Europe and across the world. Four out of the six confederations were backing him.
“He has damaged his reputation by becoming embroiled in this issue. It is going to be a long way back for him, but it is important that he has the chance to clear his name and it is important for all of us to understand the facts and what has gone on. That will give our board the chance to consider what direction we want to take.
“I am very surprised that Platini has allowed himself to be in a position where he has received a payment and there doesn’t appear to be any written evidence to support it. That is a key issue, really, which hasn’t helped his situation.
“He has got his firm of lawyers defending his position and I am sure there will be more to this debate than what we have all picked up in the press and from meetings.
“It is only fair the investigation runs its course. We, at the Scottish FA, put in an independent judicial panel back in 2011 to allow an objective view of any football matter and we have been very keen to make sure we have good governance in place.
“We feel it is important at Fifa level and that it is important Platini is allowed to go through that process before everyone starts jumping to conclusions. With every day that passes and with every new piece of information which is released, it reaffirms our belief and my belief in particular that there has to be change at the top of Fifa very quickly. The deadline of the election taking place on 26 February is key. I don’t think it should be postponed.
“There are currently seven candidates, including Platini and Gianni Infantino from Uefa as well. I’m sure as we get closer to 26 February, that number will reduce. I can’t see all seven going the distance. Once we get closer and once we get more information from the Ethics Committee investigation, then we as a board will be able to decide what we do.
“But at the moment it is a shambles. What’s going on at the top of the game is tarnishing football’s reputation and it is now becoming personal, as well as focusing on activities that have taken place. It needs sorting out and it needs leadership.”
Regan says Infantino, a 45-year-old Swiss-Italian lawyer who succeeded former SFA chief executive David Taylor as Uefa general secretary in 2009, is capable of providing that leadership. “I know Gianni and he is a good guy,” said Regan. “He is a lawyer by profession and speaks five languages fluently. He has led the business side of Uefa very well in recent years.
“We have seen the success of the Champions League, the Europa League, the centralised television deal that we are all part of. They have kickstarted Uefa’s commercial activity as well and been very successful.
“Gianni is a credible candidate. Clearly, there is an opportunity, depending on what happens with Platini, for him to step aside if Platini is cleared. But Platini has made things very difficult for himself with the information that has been disclosed. We will watch with interest and see what happens following the investigation. It is going to be very difficult for Platini to come back.
“We all know how difficult it is to get the support of 209 different countries, each with their own views, cultures and ways of working. Gianni is very much a European man. But he has also worked cross-confederations and is sitting on the Reform Committee that Fifa has set up. He is Uefa’s representative, so he is very close to what is going on within the Fifa reform process.
“That has probably improved his profile. He is somebody who could definitely drive the reform process.”