KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert has cleared Russia and Qatar to go ahead with their hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in an interim report on the world federation’s bid scandal investigation.

Munich-based Eckert has spent the past three months reading and assessing the evidence collected over the past two years by ethics investigator and/or prosecutor Michael Garcia. His verdict will infuriate critics of the award to the Gulf state in particular and will be, by no means, the end of the hue and cry.

Hans-Joachim Eckert: FIFA's independent ethics judge

The American attorney 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.

Focus of concern

Eckert’s 42-page summary ranged over the nature of the report and instances of concern. Russia and Qatar were the main focus of concern because they won the awards; both were cleared of wrongdoing and potential corruption and any breaches were “of very limited scope.”

Some individuals may face disciplinary action but the Qatar bid “did not compromise the integrity of FIFA World Cup bidding process as a whole.”

The one caveat about Russia is that all its bid office computers had since been destroyed so any potential trail of evidence concerning their bid has been lost. The Russians had been the most obstructive to the inquiry though there was little other evidence of wrongdoing.

Eckert clarified that there was no proven link between Qatar’s bidding success and the activities of Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari then president of the Asian confederation who was, simultaneously, pursuing his own ambitions to become FIFA president.

Other bidders also came in from criticism for their behaviour in the bidding process, including England and Australia. Some officials, according to Garcia’s recommendation, could face disciplinary action.

The Warner connection

England’s conduct, in relation to then CONCACAF president Jack Warner, was “damaging [to] the image of FIFA and the bidding process.”

This will be 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.

Eckert does not offer a totally clean slate. In his conclusion he noted “certain occurrences suited to impair the integrity of [the] bidding process.” These were, however, “of very limited scope [and] far from reaching any threshold that would require returning to the bidding process, let alone reopening it – a decision which anyway would not fall under the FIFA ethics committee’s competence.

“The assessment of the 2018-2022 FIFA World Cups bidding process is therefore closed for the FIFA ethics committee.”

However, disciplinary action for misconduct would follow against “specific officials.”

The 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 condicyed 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.