FIFA fails ethical litmus test

2014-11-15 12:27

Zurich - FIFA is shaken by a fratricidal war over its own corruption probe into the way the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded. Expect developments.

Football's world ruling body, FIFA, is facing massive criticism - even within its own ranks - in the aftermath of the dispute that has broken out within its ethics committee over the concluding report of its corruption probe into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid process.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke expressed disappointment Friday at the dispute, which sees committee chairmen Michael Garcia and Hans-Joachim Eckert with drastically differing opinions of the awarding of Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022.

"We can simply say that it's sad that the two chairmen of our ethics committee have differing opinions when we are talking about such important things in football," Valcke said at an event in South Africa.

Garcia, the chief investigator who carried out the investigation, has pledged to appeal after FIFA judge Eckert cleared Russia and Qatar in his report.

FIFA confirmed it had received notice from Garcia of his intention to appeal.

If an appeal is heard and the appeal committee upholds Eckert's account, Garcia's concerns and doubts will remain unanswered. If the FIFA body sides with Garcia, then the case will be re-opened.

What seems more certain is that the days of the co-chairmanship of the ethics committee are numbered, with a FIFA Congress planned for March 2015 in Zurich.

In the meantime, calls are growing louder and louder for Garcia's version of the report to be published in full - all 435 pages.

"The conflict between Mr. Eckert and Michael Garcia shows exactly why the investigative report and the findings about the suspicious awarding of the World Cups should have been published or needs to be made public as soon as possible so that people can form their own opinion," Mark Pieth, the former chairman of FIFA's Independent Governance Committee, said in Friday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The international media has blasted FIFA and its president, Joseph Blatter, calling the decision a farce and demanding the publication of the complete findings of the investigations.

"Blatter empire strikes back," wrote the Times, while the Guardian -another British daily - offered: "FIFA showcases its warped integrity."

The British are particularly up in arms after Eckert's criticism of wrongdoings by the English Football Association in its unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Eckert named "potentially problematic facts and circumstances" around the English bid, most notably efforts to win the vote of former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner in the 2010 election.

But the FA said in a statement: "We do not accept any criticism regarding the integrity of England's bid or any of the individuals involved."

The Independent referred to some of Garcia's findings and wrote: "Destroy the computers, disown the man who allegedly handed out the bribes, or simply close the door on the polite American lawyer who would like to ask some questions. Truly, the Hans-Joachim Eckert report has demonstrated how the English Football Association has been taught another lesson in FIFA politics."

Italy's leading sports daily, Gazzetta dello Sport, was similarly scathing.

"It's not a nice game that FIFA is playing. Even a child would understand that something is not right. There are legitimate doubts for us mere mortals. Are you sure that everything is clean?" the paper wrote.

"FIFA clears Russia and Qatar. There were gifts, parties, secret agreements among candidates, reprehensible behaviour, destruction of computers, firings, resignations ... all of that is not a problem according to FIFA," wrote La Vanguardia of Spain.

"Dark wheelings and dealings FIFA-style. The interpretation of the investigative report into the awarding of the World Cup to Russia and Qatar divides the federation. And it raises a lot of questions," offered French daily Le Figaro.

The Qatari World Cup organizers, meanwhile, said the report confirms their integrity.

"We say the same as we've always said. We've always been confident about the integrity of our bid," Qatar 2022 Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi told Al Jazeera.

"Throughout this whole process we've been transparent when it comes to the process of 2018 and 2022. Our focus has been concentrated on hosting and delivering an amazing World Cup that will leave a great legacy."

Despite calling for the publication of the full findings, Pieth has also defended Eckert.

"You must realise that Eckert did not have coercive measures available. He could not detain anybody or ask any witnesses," Pieth said in the Neue Zuericher Zeitung.

The Swissman said it was unfair of the public to expect Eckert to act not only legally, but politically as well.

Still, Pieth does not believe the case is closed.

"That is the dumbest thing you can say at the moment. There are too many unanswered questions," Pieth said.


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