KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: FIFA ethics investigator Michael Garcia believes that the bulk of his initial report into the World Cup bid scandal should be published.
Garcia, who spent two years investigating the circumstances surrounding the 2018 and 2022 awards to Russia and Qatar, was speaking on the sidelines of an ethics conference in FIFA’s own headquarters in Zurich.
In early September the American lawyer wrapped up a two-year investigation, thought to have cost around £6m, and handed a 260-page report plus 200,000 pages of supporting documentation to ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert.
Judge Eckert suggested that he would have to read the report and consult further with Garcia on a conclusive document before any disciplinary charges could be laid. In turn Eckert suggested this would mean little likelihood of verdicts before next April.
In the meantime the world game would be kept in ignorance.
Garcia, on Friday, suggested he did not believe such ongoing secrecy either necessary or healthy. His personal opinion was that his report should be published in full except for sections which needed to be withheld for legal reasons.
He said: “I believe it’s a very comprehensive reports, it’s a very detailed report. There may be issues as to what particulars can be public and confidential information – as we have with all law enforcement cases and issues – but, as a general matter, I think that the more that is public and the more that people can see what is done and agree with what was done – or disagree with what is done – then those issues can be resolved and the organisation can move on.”
One unsatisfactory complication is that the independent ethics chamber does not possess its own communications department. All statements have to be issued through FIFA’s own media department or, on occasion, via Garcia’s New York lawyers’ office.
England has beaten humiliatingly in the vote for the 2018 finals and Conservative Member of the Parliament Damian Collins, a former member of the Commons culture media and sport committee which investigated the bidding process, said the serious fraud office should be entitled to see the report to examine whether there is evidence of wrong doing within its jurisdiction.
He said: “I intend to write to the Attorney General to ask whether he could request a copy of the report. The report covers the whole of the World
Cup bidding process so we should be able to see it to determine whether it shows any wrongdoing that falls within the jurisdiction of the serious fraud office.”
Collins thought burying the report would be a “complete sham” and “totally unacceptable”.
He added that the FA and other national football associations should consider splitting away from FIFA if the report were not made public. Collins added: “We should be prepared to do that and other countries should be prepared to do that. At the end of the day, all Fifa cares about is money. If FIFA is prepared to bury this report then it shows they will never be serious about reform and cleaning up the game.”
Simon Johnson, who was England 2018’s chief operating officer and gave evidence to the Fifa investigation, said: “I find it astonishing they
are not prepared to publish any part of this report or a summary. Whatever conclusions are made, the Fifa executive will be forever
shrouded in mystery and suspicion.
“If they are not going to be free, open and transparent how can anyone trust the conclusions? It will lead people to suspect that anything
they come out with is a whitewash.”
Clive Efford, the shadow minister for sport, said: “If they don’t publish, everyone will always assume there was something terrible in
it, and it damages the whole game. Football will be under a cloud for the next eight years and that is very much the future. They need to be open and transparent and they need to publish what they know.”
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