Fifa has published its report into dodgy biddings for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. And, surprise, almost everyone involved at least appeared to be involved in some or other shenanigans. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
Surprise! That bastion of adequate sporting governance, Fifa, have embarrassed themselves yet again. On Thursday, they released the findings of their probe into the controversial bidding races for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and, as expected, it has caused yet another fall out.
The account sent Michael Garcia, the man who spent the last 18 months investigating the chaos, into a flat spin. He said the summary of the report misrepresented his conclusions. German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert closed the investigation and ruled that there was not enough evidence to justify reopening the bidding process. The 42-page summary of a 430-page investigation cleared Qatar of wrongdoing and Garcia was outraged.
“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,” said Garcia.
Garcia, a former New York district attorney, spent 18 months gathering evidence from all the bidding nations, interviewing over 75 witnesses and, as you expect, the findings raised some eyebrows.
There will now be a push for Fifa to publish the report in full with Garcia leading the appeal. But, as one would expect, it won’t be so simple. Firstly, Fifa have suggested they believe Garcia is “enjoying the publicity” and that many of his comments are self-serving. Furthermore, Ahmad Darw, who is a member of the Fifa appeals committee, was one of the beneficiaries of Mohamed Bin Hammam’s (remember him?) dubious payments back in 2010.
Bin Hammam, if you don’t remember, paid a few folks to vote for him in the lead up to the Fifa presidential election campaign and prior to the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cup bids decisions. The newly published report noted those payments, but said that they were not linked to the Qatari World Cup bid.
But, as everything involving Fifa, things might still get a bit more complicated. Darw was listed on Fifa’s official website as being part of the appeals committee until late afternoon on Thursday. Fifa then removed the link for the list of members. That Darw is still part of Fifa probably just adds to the already apparent evidence that the organisation is rotten to the core, but let’s not stop there.
The summarised report, which assesses all of the countries who bid for 2018 and 2022 rights respectively, points to dubious dealings for almost every country.
Here is the breakdown:
Issues with Jack Warner (Chuck Blazer’s best friend) and his sponsored gala dinner as well as helping an acquaintance find part-time employment in the United Kingdom. The report states, “three of the four Fifa executive committee members made improper requests for support or favours towards the England 2018 bid team and/or the FA during the bidding process. With regard to at least two of these committee members, England 2018 accommodated, or at least attempted to satisfy, the improper requests. It said there was “potentially problematic conduct” by individuals which could lead to further investigation.
Potential problems with financial support for “football development” and the bidding process. Jack Warner is back in the business with this one as the report says there is the “appearance that benefits were conferred in exchange for a vote thus undermining the credibility of the process. Moreover, the report identified certain payments from the Football Federation of Australia to Concacaf which… appear to have been co-mingled, at least in part, with personal funds of the then Concacaf president who at the time also was a Fifa executive committee member [Jack Warner]”.
Gifts were sent to Fifa officials and the wives of Exco members. The value ranged from $700 to $2,000 each. The members denied the gifts were improper, but the report said that the explanations were “troubling”.
Mong-Joon Chung, a Fifa executive committee member and honorary president of the Korean FA, had sent letters about a proposal to set up a global footballing fund. The fund was said to be worth about $777 million and while there is nothing wrong with that, the report says the global football fund letters created at least the appearance of a conflict or an offer of benefits to Fifa executive committee members in an effort to influence their votes. It adds that there was “potentially problematic conduct”.
The biggie. Lack of transparency between Qatar’s bid team and advisers was found to “raise concerns in the light of relevant Fifa ethics rules”. Qatar’s sponsorship of the Confederation of African Football congress in Angola in 2010, at an estimated cost of $1.8-million, created a “negative impression”.
Conveniently, Russia said most of their leased computers have since been returned to the owners and the information went missing. They used Gmail addresses (yes, really) to help with the bid and despite apparently trying to get access to these through Google US, Google did not respond. How or why Google would need to give access to an account that simply comes with an address and password is anybody’s guess. The investigation said it “considered the evidence available as not sufficient to support any findings of misconduct by the Russia 2018 bid team or any individual involved with it suited to compromise the integrity of the Fifa World Cup 2018-2022 bidding process”.
Spain and Portugal
Neither of these two nations submitted any evidence or co-operated.
Despite all of this and despite Garcia’s objection, Fifa simply replied, “We take note of reports mentioning a statement issued by Michael Garcia, however, for the time being Fifa has not been officially notified of this statement and is therefore not in a position to further comment on this matter at this stage.
“We will follow up in due time.”
It’s not news that Fifa are rotten. It’s no surprise that most of the bidders for World Cups appear to be somewhat dodgy. It’s no surprise that Fifa are seemingly shrugging their shoulders. Whether or not anything will eventually come from it is the other question and, sadly, history suggests that nothing will change. Cry, the beautiful game. DM
Photo: FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures as he addresses a news conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich May 30, 2011. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann