Sepp Blatter was the president of FIFA for 17 years before he was forced out of office in December 2015. Michel Platini was the president of UEFA for 8 years before leaving his role on the same day as Blatter. They were facing criminal charges but they have now been cleared by a Swiss court in Bellinzona. Platini, a former France national team captain and manager, was also acquitted of fraud. The two, once among the most powerful figures in world football, had denied the charges against them. Blatter and Platini had been accused of unlawfully arranging for FIFA to pay the Frenchman two million Swiss francs (£1.7m) in 2011. The case meant that Blatter ended his reign at the helm of FIFA which lasted almost two decades in disgrace and it ruined the chances of Platini succeeding him as he was banned from football when the affair came to light. The payment was said to follow a "gentlemen's agreement" between Blatter and Platini as the former asked the latter to be his technical advisor back in 1998.
Between 1998 and 2002 Platini worked as a consultant with an annual salary of £257,000 which was the most that the football governing body FIFA could afford at the time because of the money troubles that it had at the time. The rest of Platini's one-million per year salary (£857,000) was to be settled at a later date, Blatter said. The motives of the payment were unclear although the two men had met in 2010 to discuss the upcoming FIFA 2011 presidential elections. At the time Blatter approved the payment he was campaigning for re-election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. Platini, the then president of UEFA, was seen as having sway with European members who could influence the vote. The details of the payment emerged following a huge investigation launched by the US Department of Justice into bribery, fraud, and money laundering at FIFA in 2015. The findings of the investigation triggered Blatter to resign. Both Blatter and Platini were banned from football for eight years in 2015 over the payment, although their bans were later reduced. Platini who also lost his job as UEFA president as a result of the findings claimed the affair was a deliberate attempt to thwart his attempt to become FIFA president in 2015.
Gianni Infantino, Platini's former general secretary then entered the FIFA presidential race and won the elections in 2016. Speaking after the verdict, Platini said; "I want to express my happiness for all my loved ones that justice has finally been done after seven years of lies and manipulation. My fight is a fight against injustice. I won the first game. In this case, there are culprits who did not appear during this trial. Let them count on me, we will meet again. Because I will not give up and I will go all the way in my quest for truth. Believe me, going from being a legend of world soccer to a devil is very difficult, especially when it comes to you in a totally unfair way."