Michel Platini's indiscretions loom large on eve of Euro 2016 draw in Paris
There is nothing routine about football administration at the moment, and there is little routine about a European Championships in France after what happened in Paris a month ago.
Security and the fate of Uefa’s president dominated the press conference which followed the meeting of Uefa’s executive committee here in Paris.
The press conference began nearly two hours late as the exco had an extensive presentation about the reforms of Fifa, as well as discussing goal-line technology which may be introduced for the tournament, depending on a decision which will be taken next month.
They also confirmed an increase in prize money. Ireland will be guaranteed €8 million after qualifying for the tournament, with another €1 million available for a group win, and €500,000 for a draw in the group stages. Teams reaching the last sixteen will receive €1.5 million, those getting to the last eight will make another €2.5 million and the four semi-finalists will get €4 million each. The winner will make another €8 million. “Anything is possible,” Gianni Infantino, Uefa’s general secretary replied when an Irish journalist joked that Ireland didn’t expect to win it.
But it was Michel Platini and security which were central afterwards. Uefa’s president is currently suspended from all football-related activity, its general secretary Gianni Infantino appeared at the press conference but it was made clear before he spoke that he was “here as Uefa general secretary and not as Fifa presidential candidate”.
Uefa will hold an extraordinary congress in February, 24 hours before the Fifa presidential elections, which, if Platini is banned by Fifa, will allow Uefa to plan for their own presidential elections.
On Saturday, the draw for next summer’s championships take place, but on Friday morning, Platini discovered that he would be barred from the event when the Court of Arbitration in Sport upheld his 90-day provisional suspension from all football-related activity.
“I am disappointed,” Jacques Lambert, president of the tournament said at the press conference. “As president of the organising committee. Michel Platini has been behind this tournament from the beginning. Platini has perhaps lost a battle today but he has not lost the war and as long as he has not lost the war, we can still harbour some hopes.”
Infantino said Platini was entitled to try and clear his name but the message was that Uefa was functioning in the absence of its leader. “Uefa is working,” Infantino said.
Platini’s absence will be the story of the weekend and there was a back and forth which centred on the president’s rumoured presence in the Shangri-La hotel in Paris. “How should I know everyone who is in the Shangri-La hotel?” Infantino asked, with some justification before Lambert said he had spoken to Platini and he was not at the Shangri-La hotel, he was at home.
Uefa provided few details of the increased security measures, saying they have plenty of time before the tournament begins. Fanzones, which were seen by some as a security threat, actually allowed better security, Lambert said, because fans were in one place so could be more easily protected.
Detailed discussions will now take place between organisers and French authorities although, as the tickets for the competition go on sale on Monday, supporters planning to spend money and travel to France might have hoped for a few more specifics.