KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY
— Michael Garcia, FIFA’s new chief investigator, is turning his inquisitive eyes on awards of World Cup host rights not only to Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022 . . . but also to Germany in 2006.
Garcia, former US attorney, was appointed on July 17 to head up the investigatory arm of the restructured two-chamber ethics protection system – the first and, so far, only major product of the reform programme launched by president Sepp Blatter in June last year.
The World Cup bidding scandal was one of the most powerful political volcanoes to have erupted beneath the cosy, self-protective world of FIFA’s senior directors and committees.
Revelations about voting collusion and financial inducements in the dual 2018/2022 process tarnished the image of FIFA as never before. An irresistible flood of demands was generated – mostly and significantly from outside FIFA – for changes both of structure and personnel.
Garcia, and FIFA’s new German head judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, both indicated on their simultaneous appointments that no issue, past or present, was beyond their remit. The only caveat was that they might be restricted, ultimately, by whatever regulations were in place at any particular time.
Speculation in Germany had increased over whether Garcia would delve into the award to the country of the 2006 finals. Despite firm denials of wrongdoing, from top officials Wolfgang Niersbach and Franz Beckenbauer, speculation has long circulated about murky behind-the-scenes dealing.
Niersbach, now president of the German football federation (DFB), was communications director of the bid and then of the tournament organisation.
Beckenbauer, Germany’s greatest football personality, chaired both the bid and tournament organisation. Subsequently he was a member of the FIFA executive committee which decided, in December 2010, to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
The determination of Garcia to firm up on talk of investigating World Cup bids came in an interview run by the German television channels ARD and WDR. He said: “If there’s something apparently amiss, that needs to be investigated, then that is what I will do.”
One other German – apart from Eckert – to have come out now in favour of turning an investigatory spotlight on the World Cup bids is Theo Zwanziger.
The former president of the DFB, ousted earlier this year in favour of Niersbach, is heading up a FIFA reform ‘task force’ charged with revising the statutes of the world federation.
Zwanziger became joint president of the DFB shortly before the 2006 World Cup – as a diplomatic sop to outgoing Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder – and took over sole command after the finals.
Questioned by investigative journalist Jens Weinreich at the weekend, Zwanziger said: “The 2006 award should also be examined in case there are issues about which I knew nothing.”
Documentation concerning the ISL scandal, recently opened up by order of the Swiss federal court, showed that a payment of $250,000 was made by ISL to an individual identified only as ‘E16’ before Germany was awarded the 2006 finals.
That was in July 2000. The following day Germany won the vote in the FIFA executive by 12-11 over South Africa after the president of the Oceania confederation, Charles Dempsey, walked out ahead of the vote, alleged threats to himself and his family.
Zwanziger confirmed that details in the ISL file had raised questions to which he believed answers were needed.
Garcia had already confirmed his intention of studying the ISL scandal which, ultimately, brought the downfall of long-time Brazilian football supremo Ricardo Teixeira and which will, almost certainly, force the resignation of veteran fellow Brazilian Joao Havelange as honorary president of FIFA.
That status was conferred on Havelange by FIFA Congress on his retirement in 1998 after 24 years as president.
Recent confirmation that he accepted illicit payments from ISL – during the now-bankrupt company’s tenure as FIFA marketing partner – prompted a clamour for him to stand down. Similar concerns prompted his retirement last December as a member of the International Olympic Committee.
Current FIFA president Blatter has stated that only FIFA Congress, which conferred Havelange’s honorary award, has the power to remove it. However this writer’s understanding is that, ahead of the 2013 Congress next spring, Havelange will choose a conveniently cluttered ‘news slot’ to announce his retirement on grounds of ill health.
Earlier this year the 96-year-old spent two months in hospital, at one stage in intensive care, after contracting an infection.
Blatter was general secretary and then chief executive for much of Havelange’s presidential reign and succeeded to the presidency in 1998. He is currently serving his fourth term, after having been re-elected last year following a scandal-wracked process which led to a life ban being imposed on Qatari challenger Mohamed Bin Hammam after bribery allegations.
Bin Hammam recently had the ban overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport but remains under a suspension imposed following allegations of financial impropriety – which he denies – during his years as president of the Asian Football Confederation.
Garcia, in the German TV interview, noted that no individual within FIFA should consider themselves immune from his gaze.
“The more important someone is,” said Garcia, “the more important that the case be investigated.”
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Also at www.WorldSoccer.com
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