FIFA has been plunged into fresh chaos after a long-awaited probe into the controversial bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was disowned by its own ethics investigator.
Michael Garcia (pic), the former attorney for the southern district of New York hired as part of a drive to revive Fifaâ€™s image, complained that a 42-page summary of his 430-page report contained â€œnumerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the factsâ€.
In a Kafkaesque twist, he immediately reported the chair of the adjudicatory chamber of the ethics committee, the German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, to the appeals committee of the scandal-plagued governing body.
Garciaâ€™s dramatic intervention came just hours after Eckert had confirmed the Guardianâ€™s revelation that Russia and Qatar would be cleared of substantive wrongdoing and would not be stripped of the tournaments despite a whirlwind of speculation.
Instead, the English bid for the 2018 World Cup and the Australian bid for 2022 came in for criticism. Englandâ€™s bid team, praised for co-operating with Garciaâ€™s investigation, was criticised for trying woo then Concacaf president Jack Warner by paying Â£35,000 for a dinner and offering to find a part-time job for someone on his behalf.
Russian bid executives claimed that all their emails were wiped from their rented computers. Alexei Sorokin, who runs Russiaâ€™s 2018 organising committee, denied a deliberate cover-up.
The Conservative MP Damian Collins, who has been campaigning for reform of Fifa, said the report was a â€œwhitewashâ€ and the Football Association rejected criticism of Englandâ€™s bid team. The bidâ€™s former chief operating officer, Simon Johnson, called Eckertâ€™s summary â€œa politically-motivated whitewashâ€.
The decision to award Qatar the 2022 tournament in December 2010 was hugely controversial. In addition to bribery allegations, there was concern about the searing heat in which it would be played and the treatment of migrant workers building the infrastructure underpinning it.
Eckertâ€™s summary listed a number of areas of concern around Qatarâ€™s hugely well funded bid, including its offers to fund football development around the world, its sponsorship of the African Football Congress in Angola in 2010 for $1.8m and concerns over payments made to Argentina when the South Americans played Brazil in a friendly in Doha in 2010.
But he said in each case that either Qatar had not broken any rules or there was not a sufficiently well established link to the organising committee.
Likewise, Eckertâ€™s disputed summary of Garciaâ€™s report said that the link between payments made by the Qatari former Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam and the Qatar 2022 bid could not be proven.
The summary of the report confirmed Hammam made â€œseveral improper paymentsâ€ to high-ranking African football officials and paid $1.2m to the former Fifa executive committee member Jack Warner to stop him testifying against him. But it insisted none of these payments were related to the bid for the World Cup.
It also found Hammam offered to pay the legal fees of the banned Reynald Temarii, the Oceania confederation president who had promised his vote to Qatarâ€™s rivals, in an effort to persuade him to appeal and so stop his replacement from taking his place and voting for Australia.
Again, Eckert found that while it was clear that Hammam supported Qatarâ€™s bid, â€œthere is no direct link between the payments of Mr Bin Hammam to Mr Temariiâ€.
He added that had Temarii taken part in the vote, it would have made no difference to the outcome. Qatar received 14 votes in the final round of voting; Australia was eliminated in the first round with just one despite spending $40m of public money on its bid.
Incredibly, Eckert described the chaotic bidding process before the vote in December 2010 as â€œwell thought out, robust and professionalâ€. Yet Garcia recommends that the process should be fundamentally overhauled and eight-year term limits for Fifa executive committee members introduced.
Lord Triesman, the former FA and England 2018 chairman who was forced to stand down in May 2010, said: â€œIf they were really serious they would have simply published Michael Garciaâ€™s report. The lack of transparency speaks volumes in my view about the culture of Fifa.
â€œIt shows what the culture of the place is like. Even with the limitations on the document, he describes it as being a thin line between spreading money around for good works in football and things thought of as improper. That is because no one sought to define for bidding nations what is and isnâ€™t proper.â€
Fifa said it had yet to receive formal notification of Garciaâ€™s appeal. The dramatic intervention made public a long-running private stand-off between Garcia and Eckert over the handling of the report.
In a sign that the botched release of the report and the subsequent hit to Fifaâ€™s already tattered credibility could be a watershed moment, big name players joined the chorus of criticism. The Manchester City captain, Vincent Kompany, said on Twitter that Fifa was playing a â€œdangerous gameâ€. â€œMy summary of the report: Desperate Need For Change,â€ he added.
Despite promising anonymity for whistleblowers in order to encourage them to give evidence, Garcia favoured publishing as much of his 430-page report as possible â€“ with redactions where required.
Eckert insisted on publishing only his interim 42-page summary of the findings, with a promise that any sanctions against individuals would be decided by the spring.
Meanwhile, the FBI has stepped up its own investigation into allegations of tax evasion and money laundering involving former Fifa executive committee members. It emerged recently that former Fifa executive committee member Chuck Blazer was forced to help the FBI investigate his colleagues by wearing a wire at the London 2012 Olympics after running up huge tax debts on undeclared income.
â€œFifa welcomes the fact that a degree of closure has been reached with the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber stating today that â€˜the evaluation of the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process is closed for the Fifa ethics committeeâ€™,â€ said Fifa prior to Garciaâ€™s intervention.
â€œAs such, Fifa looks forward to continuing the preparations for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 which are already well under way.â€
That â€œdegree of closureâ€, which would have suited president Sepp Blatter as his campaign to be re-elected for a fifth term in April next year, now appears some way off. – The Guardian