Former UEFA chief denies wrong-doing in World Cup award process


Former UEFA president Michel Platini has been released by police after being questioned in relation to a corruption investigation centred on the 2022 World Cup.

Former UEFA president Michel Platini was released from custody in the early hours of Wednesday after being questioned as part of a corruption investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

The bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, of which Australia was a part, has been the subject of intense scrutiny, especially since the downfall of Mr Platini and former FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Mr Platini had denied any wrongdoing and French authorities did not announce any charges against the former France and Juventus player.

"It was long, but given the number of questions it could not be different," Mr Platini said after his release.

"They asked me questions about the 2016 Euro, the World Cup in Russia, the World Cup in Qatar, the Paris Saint-Germain, FIFA."

Mr Platini smiled after facing questions from reporters - despite an ongoing investigation into the controversial bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA Men's World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar.

Mr Platini has admitted to voting for Qatar, a surprising decision from a football point of view, given the extremely hot weather, lack of potential local fans, and the poor performance of Qatar's own national team.

The vote came only two weeks after Mr Platini attended a meeting hosted by then-French president Nicholas Sarkozy, and Qatar's crown prince, now Emir, Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani.

Mr Platini has long insisted the meeting did not influence his vote, and his lawyer William Bourdon said he has no case to answer.

"Listen, it was long, but given the number of questions it could only be long, they asked me questions on Euro 2016, the Russia World Cup, the Qatar World Cup, Paris Saint-Germain, FIFA, so lots and lots and lots of themes, so I replied to all of that," Mr Bourdon said.

Also questioned on Tuesday were Sophie Dion, a sports advisor in Mr Sarkozy's former administration, and Claude Gueant, the former secretary general of the Elysee presidential palace under Mr Sarkozy.

Qatar beat the long-favoured United States 14 to 8 when FIFA selected the host country for the 2022 tournament.

As head of European soccer's governing body UEFA, Mr Platini was the continent's top representative on the FIFA committee that picked Qatar.

French prosecutors are known to be investigating an array of winning bids for major sports events, including the 2018 World Cup, awarded to Russia, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and track and field world championships.

But questions surrounding the bidding process won't go away.

Michel Platini, right, and his lawyer William Bourdon answer reporters after Platini has been freed
Michel Platini, right, and his lawyer William Bourdon answer reporters after Mr Platini has been freed

Suggestions of bribery, and corruption, have long lingered, and both Mr Platini and Mr Blatter were banned in 2015 for financial misconduct in relation to a $3 million payment authorised by Mr Blatter.

For Mr Platini, that suspension is due to expire in October.

It's a fall from grace for the gifted former France international midfielder, who was named World Player of the Year three times in a row in his heyday in the 1980s.

Australia was embroiled in the ugly bidding process too.

A $46 million campaign yielded only one vote and that was after Mr Blatter told former Football Federation Australia executive Bonita Mersiades that Australia never had a chance.

Ms Mersiades said that Australia pressed ahead with the campaign anyway. 

"I think once we were in it, it was pretty hard to pull out," she said.

"I think there was a view from some that, well, it didn't really matter what the FIFA President said, we were going to go ahead with the bid."

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