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 By PA Sport

Sepp Blatter protests his innocence in letter to FIFA member associations

Outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter has written to the governing body's 209 member associations protesting his innocence and criticising its ethics committee ahead of his disciplinary hearing this week.

Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini will have hearings before FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert in Zurich over a two million Swiss franc (£1.35m) payment made to Platini by FIFA in 2011. Blatter's case will be heard on Thursday with Platini's following on Friday, with a decision expected on Monday next week.

Blatter wrote to the associations, saying: "I am bewildered by the insinuations and allegations brought against me by the investigatory chamber of ethics committee.

"However the way in which the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee has communicated on the current proceedings, demanded the maximum penalty and reinforced public pre-judgement has reached a tendentious and dangerous dimension.

"These proceedings remind me of the Inquisition.

"I will continue to fight for my rights and at the end of this week I will present my case before the adjudicatory chamber with great conviction and a strong belief in justice."

The FIFA Ethics Committee hearing could impose lifetime bans on both Blatter and Platini if corruption is proved, and shorter bans for lesser offences. The pair are likely to escape lifetime bans but investigators expect the pair to receive lengthy suspensions of at least seven years, Press Association Sport reported, citing insiders at FIFA.

They face charges including corruption, conflict of interest and non-cooperation. Sources with knowledge of the case told PA it would be difficult to prove corruption, which carries a lifetime ban, but believe there is clear evidence of a conflict of interest in the payment being made.

Blatter and Platini, who have both denied any wrongdoing, were provisionally suspended in October over the payment which was made to the UEFA chief for work said to have been carried out more than nine years previously.

Blatter says in his letter that one of the values passed on to him by his parents was to always pay off his debts.

He adds of the Platini payment: "I can assure you that it was legal because it was based on a verbal agreement. And agreements must be adhered to.

"This payment was put through the full administrative process, the correctness of which was confirmed by all competent FIFA bodies including the Congress."

His personal advisor Klaus Stohlker told Press Association Sport that Blatter had written to all 209 FIFA associations.

Stohlker said Blatter had been working on the letter on Monday and had sent it to the 209 associations because he wanted to tell them in person of his feelings about the charges.

"He has worked very hard on this letter, he is looking at this week feeling very strong in spirit,'' Stohlker told Press Association Sport.

The timing of the payment raised suspicions in that it was made only a few months before Blatter was seeking support for a fourth term as president. Several weeks after the payment was made Platini and UEFA's Executive Committee endorsed his candidacy.

The pair acknowledged that there was no written contract for the extra salary, but said there was a verbal agreement made when Platini started working as FIFA's technical advisor in 1998 -- which is legal under Swiss law.

Platini has said he had not been paid the full amount agreed in 1998 because of FIFA's financial situation at the time.

Blatter and Platini both had their appeals against the 90-day bans for alleged financial wrongdoing rejected by FIFA's Appeals Committee last month, while Platini's appeal was dismissed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week.


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