KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- An amazing ethics war has erupted around FIFA to largely undermine a report from judge Hans-Joachim Eckert which cleared Russia and Qatar to go ahead with their hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Munich-based Eckert had spent three months assessing evidence collected over the past two years by ethics investigator Michael Garcia. Eckert’s interim summary criticised aspects of the conduct of most of the nine bids but concluded that they “did not compromise the integrity of FIFA World Cup bidding process as a whole.”
Exactly three hours after the Eckert Report was published so Garcia ripped it to shreds. In a short statement from his Chicago office he indicated not only an intention to appeal but denounced his colleague’s work as containing “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations” of not only the facts but Garcia’s own conclusions.
The world game in general and FIFA in particular had hoped that Eckert’s report would offer a glimmer of light at the end of the scandal-racked tunnel dug by the executive committee by deciding, in 2008, to run bidding for the two World Cups simultaneously.
Instead the outcome tumbled into farce, partly as a result of the culture chasm between Garcia’s American legal background and Eckert’s cautious and conservative central European ways.
Not that Eckert did not criticise. He picked up the Russians – Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko – for coming close to non-co-operation by failing to provide much of the demanded documentation (they claimed the computers had been scrapped); he accused “most senior members” of the exco of obstructing the investigation; and he noted various other refusals of co-operation (one from the former FA chairman Lord David Triesman).
As for Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari who had been president of the Asian confederation and a target for The Sunday Times, Eckert assessed his ‘financial generosity’ as having been linked more to his own bid for the FIFA presidency than to his country’s World Cup ambitions.
Of course, Eckert’s verdict on Qatar infuriated critics of the award to the Gulf state in particular and will be, by no means, the end of the hue and cry.
Garcia and his Swiss deputy, Cornel Borbely, compiled a 430-page report with a further 200,000 pages of supporting documentation. Whether the entire report may be published one day appears unlikely because of confidentiality issues.
The corruption crisis was sparked by FIFA’s decision in 2008 to undertake simultaneous bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in the hope of generating significant immediate guarantees of long-term revenue. The decisive vote was undertaken by the executive committee on December 2, 2010, in Zurich.
Eckert’s 42-page summary cleared both Russia and Qatar of wrongdoing and potential corruption and assessed any breaches as having been “of very limited scope.” Some officials, according to Garcia’s recommendation, could face disciplinary action.
Among the other bidders criticised was England whose conduct, in relation to then CONCACAF president Jack Warner, was “damaging [to] the image of FIFA and the bidding process.”
This should have been hugely embarrassing for the Football Association because of its ‘holier than though’ attitude towards FIFA and president Sepp Blatter down the years since the England bid was crushed in the first round of voting. However no sign emerged, in its reaction and that of its officials, of any change in attitude.
Among the recommendations presented by Eckert was that FIFA should impose a limit of two four-year terms of service for all members of its executive committee. This stemmed from way in which two of the “most senior members of the ethics committee” had opposed the investigation and tried last spring to halt it in its tracks.
One is understood to have been Julio Grondona, long-serving president of the Argentina federation and FIFA senior vice-president at the time of his death in July.
The only individuals who were vice-presidents in both 2010 and now are Spain’s Angel Villar and France’s Michel Platini – and UEFA president Platini has insisted he has cooperated fully with the investigation. Oddly, Eckert’s report does not mentioned the Portugal/Spain co-hosting bid for 2018 at all.
Eckert said: “In the light of these circumstances, the investigatory chamber of the FIFA ethics committee recommended a maximum of two four-year terms for all officials on the FIFA executive committee, without exception of possibility of renewal.”
Other recommendations include a prohibition of exco members participating in “venue-selection votes” involving their own nation as well as a “more open and transparent” host rotation system between the continental confederations.
In a recommendation which echoes Olympic procedure, exco members should be barred from visiting bid nations and bid teams should be prohibited from visiting committee members.
Other proposals include tighter control on gifts and greater transparency on the arrangement and financing of friendly matches between the national teams of bidding nations and those of exco members.
Finally the report recommended far stricter efforts to ensure that development projects “are not used to improperly influence the bidding process.”
Eckert’s official findings . . .
** The evaluation of the 2018-2022 FIFA World Cups bidding process is closed for the FIFA ethics committee
** The chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of the FIFA ethics committee finds that the investigation into the said bidding process has been conducted in full compliance with the relevant provisions of the FIFA Code of Ethics;
** The chairman of the adjudicatory chamber support the recommendations made by the chairman of the investigatory chamber in their report on the 2018-2022 FIFA World Cups bidding process;
** The adjudicatory chamber of the FIFA ethics committee is prepared to examine specific cases if the investigatory chamber opens ethics proceedings against officials based on information obtained during the FIFA World Cup investigation.
. . . and Garcia’s riposte:
Today’s decision by the Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the Investigatory Chamber’s report. I intend to appeal this decision to the FIFA Appeal Committee.