Longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter likely won’t be attending the 2022 World Cup in any official capacity, after being banned from all national and international football activities for the next eight years.
In a statement today, FIFA’s ethics committee said Blatter and Vice-President Michel Platini had been found guilty of corruption allegations, involving a “disloyal payment” of $2 million made to Platini in 2011.
The ban will come into effect immediately, likely spelling the end of 79-year-old Blatter FIFA career of nearly two decades.
Both Blatter and Platini, who have maintained their innocence, must also pay fines of $49,198 and $80,000, respectively.
In a press conference today, Blatter said he would appeal the decision, and that the move showed there is “something wrong with the system.”
He added that he would no longer serve as a “punching bag” for “my organization that I have served with heart and conscience during 41 years.”
Blatter had announced that he was resigning as president of FIFA shortly after being elected for a fifth term this summer. The move came after US authorities indicted several FIFA officials on bribery and racketeering charges.
Meanwhile, 60-year old Platini, head of the European soccer confederation, had been a favorite for the presidency after Blatter said he was stepping down this summer. His suspension further puts the fate of FIFA in question.
In October, the two senior officials , alongside Secretary General Jérôme Valcke, were suspended from all football related activities for 90 days.
Platini had planned to run for the FIFA presidency, but the deadline to submit a nomination was Oct. 26.
The ban comes a few months after Swiss investigators announced the opening of criminal proceedings against Blatter for possible “criminal mismanagement and misappropriation.”
At the same time, the Swiss began investigating the bidding process for Russia and Qatar’s 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Both Blatter and Platini were vocal supporters of Qatar’s World Cup bid, and their fall from grace has raised questions about the fate of the tournament’s venue in 2022.
However, Qatar football officials have recently said that holding the World Cup in the Middle East is “more necessary than ever” given the current political climate.
In a statement, the Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy’s (SCDL) Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi added:
“This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s an honour to be in this position as we prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. There is nothing in the world that unites people the way football does. It builds bridges, it brings people closer to each other.
When you look at some of the issues the world is facing right now this World Cup has never been more important. There have been some difficult times over the last few years but when you look at everything we have achieved it has been worth every second.”
New elections for the FIFA presidency will take place on Feb. 26, 2016.