To paraphrase possibly the most famous line of soccer commentary ever, “they think it’s all over…it is now!”
FIFA has banned its scandal-plagued president Sepp Blatter and his European counterpart Michel Platini from all soccer-related activities for eight years over a suspect payment made four years ago.
That doesn’t mean the 79 year-old Swiss has stopped fighting: he ended a press conference Monday by channeling Schwarzenegger, saying “I’ll be back,” in an Alpine accent not too far removed from the original (albeit an octave or so higher). He’s appealing the ruling and Platini, until recently the president of European soccer’s governing body UEFA, is expected to do likewise.
But given that the long-time FIFA president will be 88 when his ban expires, it can be assumed that the Blatter era, in which the body that runs world soccer has become synonymous with sleaze and corruption, is finally over.
FIFA said in a statement Monday that the adjudicatory chamber of its Ethics Committee had rules that a FIFA payment of 2 million Swiss francs to Platini, which Blatter claimed he had authorized on the basis of a verbal agreement 12 years earlier, had constituted “an abusive execution of his position.” It added that neither man had been able to show clear evidence of the agreement being in good faith.
The ruling had been expected after months of corruption revelations and charges against his former colleagues at FIFA. As such, it’s little more than a coup de grâce for him personally. Of more importance to the future of FIFA is the suspension of Platini, who might have succeeded Blatter as president had the issue of the “disloyal payment” not blown up.
FIFA is due to elect a new president in February, although it remains to be seen whether that deadline will be met. It has now whittled down an original list of seven candidates to five (Liberia’s Musa Bility joined Platini on the subs’ bench after failing to pass the ‘integrity check’).
Blatter was unrepentant throughout his press conference, saying “I regret but I am not ashamed…I’m really sorry, sorry that I am still somewhere a punching ball.”
A number of observers noted that, although Blatter was speaking as a private citizen, there was still a soccer ball from German sports goods company and longtime FIFA sponsor Adidas AG (addyy) on the table next to him.
Adidas has come under intense fire for being reluctant to criticise corruption at FIFA, whose flagship event, the World Cup, it has sponsored for decades. Its role is coming increasingly under the spotlight as a result of a German investigation into the award, of the 2006 tournament’s hosting rights to Germany back in 2001. Its then-CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus allegedly swung the decision with money from a private slush fund. Louis-Dreyfus died in 2009, and Adidas has said the transactions were private and had nothing to do with the company.
A spokesman for Adidas didn’t immediately respond to Fortune‘s request for comment Monday.