Garcia feels fouled by FIFA

2014-11-13 20:27
Michael Garcia (AFP)

Paris - FIFA's probe into the controversial bidding race for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was thrown into turmoil on Thursday after its own investigator Michael Garcia complained that a summary of his report misrepresented his conclusions.

Garcia, who carried out an exhaustive investigation into the bidding, slammed an "incomplete and erroneous" version of his report and said he planned to appeal.

Football's world governing body had earlier cleared Qatar and Russia of corruption and ruled out a re-vote for the tournaments despite widespread allegations of wrongdoing.

Garcia, a former New York federal prosecutor, spent 18 months investigating the controversial World Cup race that ended with the selection of Russia for 2018 and Qatar for 2022.

Garcia's 350-page report, handed to FIFA on September 5, summed up an investigation that involved interviewing more than 75 witnesses and compiling a dossier with more than 200,000 pages and audio interviews.

But he issued a statement on Thursday saying: "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. I intend to appeal this decision to the FIFA Appeal Committee."

German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA's independent ethics committee, had stated that the investigation had not yielded evidence of corruption and there would be no re-vote on awarding the tournaments.

The report admitted that even though there had been a series of worrying episodes in the bidding for both tournaments, there was not enough evidence to justify reopening the process.

"The report identified certain occurrences that were suited to impair the integrity of the 2018/2022 World Cups bidding process," said the 42-page report.

".. the occurrences at issue were, in the chairman's assessment, only of very limited scope .... (and) far from reaching any threshold that would require returning to the bidding process, let alone reopening it.

"The assessment of the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cups bidding process is therefore closed for the FIFA ethics committee."

The report also said that Australia's bid contained "certain indications of potentially problematic conduct of specific individuals in the light of relevant FIFA Ethics rules."

Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary-general of the Qatar 2022 organising committee, told AFP: "We were confident that any impartial investigation was to show that our record was clean and contains no irregularities."

The report also found no evidence of misconduct related to the Russian bid for 2018, but added that not all records had been available to the investigation.

The computers used by the Russia Bid Committee had been leased and then returned to their owner and destroyed, meaning access to emails was not available.

Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, a member of FIFA's powerful Executive Committee, told TASS news agency: "I was sure that this is what would happen -- our bidding campaign was absolutely honest.

However, the English Football Association (FA) was accused of "violating bidding rules" in its attempt to win the right to stage the 2018 event.

The report alleges that in an attempt to "curry favour" with Trinidad and Tobago official Jack Warner, who was believed to control a block of FIFA executive votes, the England bid team contravened bidding rules.

England 2018 is accused of helping "a person of interest to (Warner) find a part-time job in the UK" and sponsoring a gala dinner for the Caribbean Football Union at a cost of $55,000 (44,100 euros).

The FA rejected the criticisms, while Simon Johnson, who led England's 2018 bid team, described the saga as "farcical".

"Before that statement by Mr Garcia, I was saying that it's very difficult to have confidence in the conclusions of Mr Eckert's report and that it looked like a politically-motivated whitewash," he told the BBC.

"Now that I have seen Mr Garcia's statement, I am absolutely convinced that the report is a politically-motivated whitewash."

- Series of reforms -

The report recommended a series of reforms to future bidding processes in an effort to protect the integrity of the sport's most lucrative showpiece event.

These include four-year limits on FIFA executive committee posts, the FIFA Congress, rather than the executive committee, to decide on future venues, a more transparent rotation system and a ban on committee members visiting bidding nations.

In a break with FIFA tradition, the 2018 and 2022 tournaments were awarded at the same time, in 2010, leading to claims of horsetrading in the bidding process.

The main controversy revolved around Qatar and how the gas-rich emirate was awarded the 2022 competition which was initially to be played in the summer when temperatures reach the upper-40s Celsius.

Despite Qatar escaping a re-vote, Thursday's ethics committee report still raised serious concerns over its campaign.

The report again probed the role of Qatari Mohammed bin Hammam, a former member of the FIFA executive committee who was banned from all football activity in 2012.

In June, Britain's Sunday Times alleged that bin Hammam paid more than $5 million to officials around the world before the 2010 vote to drum up support for the tiny Gulf state.

However, the report states that payments were designed to bolster his bid for the FIFA presidency in 2011 rather than to manipulate Qatar's 2022 World Cup hopes.

Qatar's decision to sponsor the 2010 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Congress in Angola to the tune of $1.8 million was also brought into question.

Read more on:    fifa  |  swc 2022  |  swc 2018  |  michael garcia  |  soccer

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