Joseph Blatter and Michel Platini have had appeals against football bans rejected, and although the bans were shortened from eight to six years, they will miss Friday's crucial congress of the corruption-tainted ruling body FIFA.
FIFA's appeals committee upheld the bans in principle but considered "strong mitigating factors" in a ruling published Wednesday, after the outgoing FIFA president Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini presented their cases last week.
Blatter, 79, and Platini, 60, were banned in a ruling by the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA's ethics committee on December 21 over ethics breaches concerning a "disloyal payment" of 2 million Swiss francs (about 2 million dollars) made to Platini in 2011.
"While agreeing with the principles and arguments presented by the adjudicatory chamber in its calculation of the sanction, the Appeal Committee ... considered that Mr Platini’s and Mr Blatter’s activities and the services they had rendered to FIFA, UEFA and football in general over the years should deserve appropriate recognition as a mitigating factor," an appeals committee statement said.
The committee also rejected an appeal from the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee which had called for a life ban for both officials.
Blatter and Platini have said they would appeal a rejection by FIFA at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
An emergency ruling by the CAS cannot be completely ruled out but the two are unlikely to be present at the extraordinary congress in Zurich where FIFA credibility is to be restored - with its executive committee urging federations to approve the reforms.
“The eyes of the world are on us this week after one of the most challenging times in our history. The approval of the reforms will send a strong message that we have listened and that we are taking the action necessary to regain trust and improve our performance,” acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou said in a statement.
"Each of these measures is critical for the future of FIFA and global football."
Reforms range from an overhaul of FIFA's governance structures to more transparency and term limits for top officials including the president. A three-quarter majority is required for approval.
The congress takes place against the backdrop of ongoing criminal investigations in the United States and Switzerland against football officials including several former FIFA vice-presidents.
The executives also recommended that the current suspensions of Indonesia and Kuwait should be dealt with at the regular congress in May. If the congress agrees a maximum 207 associations would vote on Friday.
Running for the presidency are UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, Asian football supremo Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who lost the 2015 election against Blatter, former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne of France, and South African Tokyo Sexwale.
The vote will go ahead as planned after the CAS rejected a request from Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein for a postponement as he tried to enforce transparent voting booths and independent scrutineers.
"The request for provisional measures has been rejected by the President of the CAS Appeals Arbitration Division. The full order with grounds will be communicated in a few days," the CAS said in a short statement.
The five candidates were meanwhile briefed by FIFA on Wednesday on proceedings.
Infantino's spokesman Rob Fawdon confirmed a report that the candidates have been asked by FIFA to give details of their planned victory speeches, and have been provided with possible answers for the news conference after the election.
But FIFA dismissed it was trying to influence the men, saying they would only be given guidelines on institutional and administrative FIFA issues they may not be familiar with. FIFA added they don't have to follow these guidelines.
This appeared as old-school FIFA as a statement from Russian sports minister and FIFA executive Vitaly Mutko in which he lamented to the Tass news agency that Sheikh Salman and Infantino had failed to strike a deal.
"Infantino and Sheikh Salman failed to come to terms. In my opinion, they should have come to an agreement. We have been supporting this idea in every possible way," Mutko said.
"If someone loses the election by 5-10 votes and decides not to give up, then nothing good will come out of it."
On Thursday, UEFA and the CONCACAF confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean have extraordinary congresses of their own, and the other four confederations final meetings.
Friday, January 8, 2016 - 00:29
Saturday, January 9, 2016 - 12:33