ZURICH - A FIFA ethics tribunal yesterday banned Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini for eight years, saying they had abused their positions over a 2 million Swiss francs payment made to Platini.
The sentence against the two most powerful men in football stunningly highlighted the troubles faced by the world's most popular sport, in which billions of dollars have been invested in recent years.
Blatter, 79, and Platini, 60, were "immediately" banned from all football activity. Blatter's career is now almost certainly over while Platini's hopes of taking over Fifa are all but finished.
Blatter, Fifa's president since 1998, was fined 50,000 Swiss francs (S$70,940) while Platini, the head of Uefa, Europe's governing body, and a Fifa vice-president, was fined 80,000 Swiss francs.
Blatter told a press conference he would challenge the sentence at a Fifa appeal committee, at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and before Swiss civil courts.
Blatter said he had been "betrayed" by Fifa investigators and had been treated like a "punching ball".
He condemned the Fifa court for not accepting his explanations. "Something that is not true cannot be proven," he said, declaring that he would be "combative".
Platini said he would go to sports and civil courts in a bid to overturn his eight-year ban. He added that the Fifa decision was a "masquerade" intended to "sully" his name.
Uefa said it was "disappointed" in Fifa's decision to ban Platini.
A statement by the Fifa tribunal said Blatter and Platini were guilty of "abusive execution" of their powers with the 2 million Swiss franc payment that Blatter authorised for Platini in 2011. They said it was for work as a consultant carried out between 1999 and 2002.
While the Fifa court dropped corruption charges against both men, it said both were guilty of a conflict of interest.
It said there was "no legal basis" for the payment in a written agreement between the two officials in August 1999.
"Neither in his written statement nor in his personal hearing was Mr Blatter able to demonstrate another legal basis for this payment. His assertion of an oral agreement was determined as not convincing and was rejected by the chamber."
The court said: "Mr Blatter's actions did not show commitment to an ethical attitude, failing to respect all applicable laws and regulations as well as Fifa's regulatory framework to the extent applicable to him and demonstrating an abusive execution of his position as president of Fifa."
Platini was also found to be in "a conflict of interest". The judgment was even more damning of the French football legend than for Blatter.
"Mr Platini failed to act with complete credibility and integrity, showing unawareness of the importance of his duties and concomitant obligations and responsibilities.
"His actions did not show commitment to an ethical attitude, failing to respect all applicable laws and regulations as well as Fifa's regulatory framework."
The court said Platini was also guilty of "demonstrating an abusive execution of his position as vice-president of Fifa".
Blatter and Platini were provisionally suspended in October after Swiss prosecutors started a criminal investigation into the 2011 cash transfer. Both strongly deny any wrongdoing.