Banned Platini to give speech before successor elected

FILE - In this Feb.22, 2014 file photo, UEFA President Michel Platini arrives at a press conference, one day prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying draw in Nice, southeastern France. Platini will be allowed to address European soccer leaders before his successor as UEFA president is elected, despite serving a four-year ban from the sport.  UEFA's eagerness to ensure Platini can deliver a speech in Athens on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016 is in keeping with how the body has stood by the disgraced Frenchman since he was first suspended in November. No interim leader was installed as Platini was allowed to exhaust all legal routes in an attempt to overturn his ban over a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) from FIFA in 2011. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)

ATHENS, Greece — Michel Platini will be allowed to address European soccer leaders before his successor as UEFA president is elected, despite serving a four-year ban from the sport.

UEFA's eagerness to ensure Platini can deliver a speech in Athens on Wednesday is in keeping with how the body has stood by the disgraced Frenchman since he was first suspended in October. No interim leader was installed as Platini was allowed to exhaust all legal routes in an attempt to overturn his ban over a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) from FIFA in 2011.

The ban prevents Platini from holding any position of power in soccer or carrying out any activity that gives the impression he is still acting as an official. But the FIFA ethics committee said UEFA asked "for an exception for Mr. Platini to be able to make a short farewell address" at the congress in the Greek capital.

"The chairman of the adjudicatory chamber, Mr. Hans-Joachim Eckert, granted this exception as a gesture of humanity," the judge's office said in a statement to The Associated Press.

After being led since 2007 by Platini, a former France captain, UEFA's next president will be a largely unknown administrator — either UEFA vice president Michael van Praag of the Netherlands or Slovenian federation leader Aleksander Ceferin.

Platini's home federation of France has publicly backed Ceferin, as has Poland federation president Zbigniew Boniek, a former teammate of Platini at Juventus.

In Athens, Platini is due to be publicly re-united with former UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, who seized on his boss being banned to pursue the FIFA presidency.

Sepp Blatter, who was banned along with Platini for authorizing the payment, was not allowed to deliver a similar farewell address to the FIFA congress in February when Infantino was elected president.

The careers of Platini and Blatter effectively ended when Swiss police raided FIFA after an executive committee meeting last September and questioned both about the payment.

Switzerland's attorney general opened criminal proceedings against Blatter, while Platini is being treated as between a witness and an accused person. There has been no recent update on the status of the case.

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Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

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