Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini, the man who had been favored to take over as FIFA leader, were suspended for 90 days Thursday, plunging soccer's governing body deeper into crisis.
Blatter and Platini were suspended by the FIFA ethics committee in the wake of a Swiss criminal investigation. The decision seemingly ends Platini's bid to succeed Blatter as FIFA president in the emergency election in February.
Another presidential hopeful, Chung Mong-joon, was suspended for six years in a separate case and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke was banned for 90 days. The suspensions can be extended by up to 45 days.
Blatter's suspension brings a sudden halt to a 40-year career that had survived waves of scandals until he was placed under criminal investigation. Keir Radnedge author and columnist at World Soccer Magazine says it appears to be the end of the road for Blatter.
"He can appeal to the FIFA Appeal Committee, if that fails he can go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but with the election for a successor coming up in February, time is running very, very short for him," Radnedge told Al Jazeera.
Radnedge said ultimately the fallout from the scandal could actually end up being something positive for FIFA.
"The fallout, the scandal, the controversy, the corruption allegations have been dragging on for years now and I think ... finally after all this time, you’ve seen one man — the ethics judge — and the rest of the chamber who have actually stood up to Blatter and said 'no more, this is where it has to stop,'" he said. "I think you could say that today there is a a little glimmer of hope for FIFA."
Last month, Swiss authorities turned up at Blatter's office at FIFA headquarters and interrogated him. The criminal case centers on Blatter allegedly misusing FIFA money by making a $2 million payment to Platini, who was questioned as a witness. The money was paid in 2011 for work performed between 1998 and 2002. Platini has said he was paid for being “a special advisor to president Sepp Blatter.”
Blatter was also questioned by Swiss investigators about broadcasting contracts sold to former FIFA vice president Jack Warner in 2005 that were supposedly undervalued.
Platini's suspension could have the most far-reaching implications. The former France great said he submitted his formal candidacy to stand in the Feb. 26 election to replace Blatter on Thursday morning.
Chung, a former FIFA vice president, was found guilty of breaches relating to South Korea's failed bid for the 2022 World Cup. Valcke had already been put on leave last month after being the subject of allegations over a deal for black market sales of tickets to 2014 World Cup matches.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press