By Brian Homewood
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - European soccer's governing body UEFA says it is still possible to hold a presidential election before Euro 2016 if its suspended president Michel Platini fails to overturn his six-year ban from the sport.
Platini was first banned for ethics violations in October, leaving UEFA without a president, and the Frenchman has taken his case to the Court of Arbitration (CAS) which has promised to make a decision on his case by May 9.
Platini and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter were banished over a payment of two million Swiss francs ($2.08 million) made to the Frenchman by FIFA with Blatter's approval in 2011 for work done a decade earlier. Both have denied wrongdoing.
UEFA, which held its annual Congress on Tuesday, said it would hold a meeting on May 18 which would either be a triumphant return for Platini, or otherwise to plot its next steps to find a replacement.
"We consider the meeting either the possibility to come back or the next steps," acting general secretary Theodore Theodoridis told reporters.
"UEFA has learned to live under unusual circumstances and for the moment we haven't faced major issues or major problems," he added.
UEFA's legal director Alasdair Bell said that, following a change in the statutes last year, it was possible to stage the election before the European Championship starts in France on June 10, although that would not necessarily happen.
"Last year, we changed the rules so, if necessary, we could shorten the deadline from three months to two months or one month; that doesn't imply we will. The change was made to give us flexibility, to keep our options open," he said.
UEFA's senior vice-president Angel Maria Villar, who chaired the Congress in Platini's absence, said UEFA was still hoping for a reprieve for Platini.
“Our sport has suffered much in recent times," he told the Congress. "I’m thinking of our president, Michel Platini, who has just made his appeal to CAS.
“I very much hope that Michel will be back among us any day now but I would remind you that UEFA has a road map to follow, for the continued development of football at European level whatever CAS decides."
(Writing by Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar)