Sepp Blatter’s longstanding right-hand man Jérôme Valcke has been banned from football for 12 years for a series of offences including using private jets for sightseeing purposes and attempting to facilitate the sale of undervalued TV rights.
Less than two months after the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, and his Uefa counterpart, Michel Platini, were banned for eight years, Valcke was handed the 12-year suspension for breaching seven counts of the Fifa ethics code. The former Fifa secretary general was found to have repeatedly chosen private flights over commercial ones “without any business rationale for doing so” and attempted to grant the TV and media rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to a third party “for a fee far below their actual value”.
The adjudicatory chamber of the ethics committee, headed by the German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, also ruled that Valcke had helped a sports marketing firm gain an undue advantage from the selling of World Cup tickets. “In this respect, not only did Mr Valcke do nothing to stop these activities, he even encouraged the persons responsible to do so,” it said. “Furthermore, Mr Valcke repeatedly encouraged them to breach an agreement concluded between Fifa and the sports marketing firm.”
It was following a series of allegations against Valcke by Benny Alon, a ticketing executive, in September last year that the former TV executive was suspended. He was accused of trying to profit on a ticket deal that was never ultimately carried out. By that time, there was an internal Fifa investigation underway into his alleged misuse of private jets and expenses violations.
“By travelling at Fifa’s expense purely for sightseeing reasons as well as repeatedly choosing private flights for his trips over commercial flights without any business rationale for doing so, Mr Valcke, gained an advantage for himself and relatives,” said the ethics committee. “In doing so, Mr Valcke acted against Fifa’s best interests and caused considerable financial damage to Fifa, while his private and personal interests detracted him from his ability to properly perform his duties as the secretary general of Fifa.”
Valcke became indispensable to Blatter as his “fixer” during his eight years as secretary general, responsible for delivering challenging World Cups in South Africa and Brazil. The flamboyant Frenchman staged a remarkable return to Fifa in 2007, just months after being forced to quit having been accused of lying by a US judge during contract negotiations with Mastercard when he was marketing director. But he is highly unlikely to return a third time after becoming the latest senior executive to be banned by the organisation’s ethics committee. The ethics committee also found that Valcke had attempted to delete evidence.
“It was found that Mr Valcke deliberately tried to obstruct the ongoing proceedings against him by attempting to delete or deleting several files and folders relevant to the investigation, despite being aware of his duty to preserve all data and to collaborate in order to establish the facts of the case,” it said.
Valcke has consistently denied wrongdoing and believes the charges to be politically motivated. He can appeal to Fifa and later to the court of arbitration for sport. “With today’s decision, the Fifa ethics committee has shown that it is not a credible, independent or objective decision-making body,” Valcke’s lawyer Barry Berke said in a statement, criticising an “unjust and politically motivated decision”.
He added: “Mr Valcke is confident that when all the facts come out, it will be clear that he did absolutely nothing wrong in carrying out his duties for the good of Fifa and the sport.”
Fifa is set to elect a new president on 26 February, with Uefa’s general secretary, Gianni Infantino, and the Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa the favourites. Meanwhile, US and Swiss criminal investigations are continuing.
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