Zurich - Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini had their bans from soccerreduced from eight years to six on Wednesday, two days before the sport'sruling body tries to turn the page on years
Blatter and Platini were initially found guilty of wrongdoing byFIFA's independent ethics committee, which is led by a German judge, over apreviously-secret 2011 financial transaction. FIFA President Blatter authorizeda payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) to UEFA president Platiniwhich was found to be unethical and a conflict of interest.
But following hearings last week, an in-house appeal committeecomprising members of federations voting in Friday's presidential electiondecided to relax the suspensions. The committee is headed by Larry Mussenden ofBermuda, who is currently campaigning to win a May vote to become president ofCONCACAF and a FIFA vice president.
"The appeal committee considered that Mr. Platini's and Mr.Blatter's activities and the services they had rendered to FIFA, UEFA andfootball in general over the years should deserve appropriate recognition as amitigating factor," FIFA said in a statement.
Blatter and Platini can file appeals to the Court of Arbitrationfor Sport when they get detailed written judgments from FIFA's appealcommittee.
Both Blatter and Platini have constantly denied wrongdoing andclaimed they had a verbal deal for additional salary that former France greatPlatini would receive for working as Blatter's presidential adviser from1999-2002.
They detailed their legal defence in a series of mediainterviews.
Platini said he asked for a salary of 1 million Swiss francswhen approached in 1998 to work for the newly-elected Blatter.
Blatter said there was a contract for 300,000 Swiss francs, the sameas FIFA's then secretary general in line with its salary structure, plus a"gentleman's agreement" to get the rest later.
Swiss law obliged FIFA only to pay the deferred money withinfive years. It was not until 2010 that Platini, by then UEFA president,reportedly asked for the balance, and was paid in February 2011.
That timing has raised suspicion as the payment came during aFIFA presidential election campaign. UEFA later urged its members to supportBlatter — who promised them it would be his final term — against Mohamed binHammam of Qatar.
Blatter won that 2011 election unopposed after Bin Hammam wasimplicated in bribing Caribbean voters. From then on, Platini was the likelysuccessor to lead FIFA.
Platini's provisional suspension by the ethics committee lastOctober, pending a full investigation, stalled his presidential bid and the banin December effectively ended it.
Both were fined by the ethics judges in December. Blatter wasordered to pay 50,000 Swiss francs ($50,000) and Platini was fined 80,000 Swissfrancs ($80,000).
The Platini payment emerged during a wider Swiss federalinvestigation of FIFA business, including suspected money laundering in the2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.
Switzerland's attorney general, Michael Lauber, opened criminalproceedings against Blatter in September for alleged mismanagement andmisappropriation of FIFA funds.
That case also relates to Blatter signing off undervalued2010-2014 World Cup broadcast rights for the Caribbean to former FIFA vice presidentJack Warner.
Platini's status in the Swiss investigation is "between awitness and an accused person," Lauber has said.