Fifa’s attempt to release only parts of an investigation into alleged corruption in the 2022 World Cup bidding backfired when the probe’s author challenged the way that it was published.
Michael J Garcia, who was appointed by Fifa to look into the claims surrounding Qatar’s successful bid in 2010, said a 42-page version of his much longer report, contained “incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts”.
The US lawyer has not commented in detail on the summary report, compiled by Hans-Joachim Eckert, chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of Fifa’s ethics committee.
But here are some key points in the Eckert summary report, including Mr Eckert’s conclusions:
Fifa’s executive committee (exco) met in Zurich on December 1-2, 2010 to vote. Russia beat England, Belgium/Holland and Spain/Portugal to secure the 2018 tournament. Qatar defeated Australia, Japan, South Korea and the US for the 2022 World Cup. Two of the 24 exco members were suspended over corruption allegations before the vote. Mr Garcia lacked subpoena powers: third-party co-operation was voluntary. Two of the 22 voting Fifa exco members participated only after initially refusing to be interviewed. Of 11 members no longer on the exco, three declined interview requests, two could not be contacted. The federation of one bid team was “particularly uncooperative”.
Mr Eckert said the main conclusions of the investigatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee headed by Mr Garcia were: the bidding process was “well-thought, robust and professional” but must be improved.
1) Exco members should be limited to two four-year terms – something that was rejected by the 2014 Fifa congress.
2) Exco and congress members should recuse themselves from venue-selection votes when their nation is bidding.
3) The rotation system for hosting World Cups should be more transparent.
4) Independent experts and objective criteria should be considered for evaluating and selecting venues.
5) Exco members should be banned from visiting bid nations and bid teams should be banned from visiting exco members.
6) There should be stricter reporting rules for gifts and members of bid teams, their consultants and contracts.
7) Fifa should encourage football development at all levels while ensuring projects are not used to influence the bidding process.
On the conduct of Sepp Blatter “The one concrete allegation against [Blatter], concerning an account purportedly held in his name at a US bank, was demonstrably false.”
On allegations of collusion
There were indications that “vote-trading might have, to a limited extent, taken place” – but no conclusive evidence of this.
On Australia’s 2022 bid
The Australia bid team undertook “specific efforts” to gain support of a particular exco member and “there have been efforts to conceal certain key relationships in this context”. There is a “prima facie case that two consultants violated the bidding and ethics rules” – but the consultants were not bound by the bid team’s obligations to Fifa regulations. Australia “displayed potentially problematic connections” between financing football development and the bidding process. Australia acquiesced to requests from the Oceania Football Confederation for financial support. The Australian bid team tried to direct government funds for African development projects towards initiatives in countries with ties to exco members “with the intention to advance its bid”.
Mr Eckert’s conclusion: proceedings against individuals may be appropriate, but the integrity of bidding process was not compromised.
On England’s 2018 bid
This bid was criticised by Eckert for accommodating the wishes of ex-Fifa vice-president Jack Warner. Mr Eckert says Mr Warner pressed the England bid team to “help a person of interest to him find a part time job in the UK” and so “gave the appearance that it sought to confer a personal benefit on Mr Warner in order to influence his vote”. England 2018 was willing to meet his request for favours and benefits towards a club he owned in Trinidad and Tobago and provided “substantial assistance” towards a Trinidad and Tobago under 20 training camp in the UK in 2009. The bid team sponsored a gala dinner for the Caribbean Football Union in Trinidad amounting to $55,000. It appeared to grant exco member Reynald Temarii “preferential treatment in terms of allocating football development funds” for projects in the Oceania Football Confederation where he was president. Mr Eckert said Mr Garcia “received no co-operation” from former FA chairman Lord Triesman who in 2011 made allegations in the UK parliament about unethical conduct by some exco members. The FA commissioned Dingemans report “established a prima facie case” for serious violations of bidding rules. But England 2018 “accommodated, or at least attempted to satisfy, the improper requests” made by some of these exco members.
Mr Eckert’s conclusion: proceedings against individuals may be appropriate but integrity of bidding process was not compromised.
On Qatar’s 2022 bid
Two bid consultants displayed “questionable conduct”. Their relations with the bid team lacked transparency. Qatar 2022 sponsored an African football congress, paying $1.8m, during which the bid team presented its bid. It “created a negative impression” but did not affect the bidding process. Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, former exco member, actively supported his country’s bid but as the vote neared his relationship with the bid team grew distant. He made improper payments to African football officials but this was to influence them for his Fifa presidential campaign rather than to benefit Qatar 2022. Mr Bin Hammam met exco member and Oceania Football Confederation chairman Mr Temarii, who had been suspended over bribery allegations, to help fund a legal challenge to his suspension. Mr Temarii was planning to vote for Qatar’s rivals Australia, so his suspension benefited Qatar. A replacement for Mr Temarii could still have represented the OFC in the vote if Mr Temarii waived his right to appeal against his suspension. By offering to pay his legal fees “ . . . this was an attempt [by Mr Bin Hammam] to persuade Mr Temarii to appeal the . . . decision and thus eliminate a vote for Qatar’s [2022 bid] competition”. Although concluding that there was no direct link between Qatar 2022 and any payments by Mr Bin Hammam to Mr Temarii, it was evident that the Qatari supported his country’s bid and that his actions “influenced the voting process” by eliminating votes for Qatar’s rivals, Australia and England. An alleged whistleblower provided records but proved unreliable.
Mr Eckert’s conclusion: proceedings against individuals may be appropriate, but the integrity of the bidding process was not compromised.
On Japan’s 2022 bid
Mr Eckert said Japan’s team give gifts to Fifa officials, executive committee members and some of their wives that ranged in value from $700 to $2,000. Exco members concerned denied receiving any improper or valuable gift. But various potential explanations for Exco members’ statements and perceptions were “troubling.”
Mr Eckert’s conclusion: these gifts did not compromise the bidding process.
On South Korea’s 2022 bid
A Korean FA vice-president sent letters to exco members about a proposal to raise $777m for a “global football fund” to support football development. The fund was not mentioned in bid documents but mentioned in the oral presentation. The letters “created at least the appearance of a conflict or an offer of benefits” to exco members in an attempt to influence their votes.
Mr Eckert’s conclusion: proceedings against individuals may be appropriate, but the integrity of the bidding process not compromised.
On Russia’s 2018 bid
The Russia bid team made only a limited amount of documents available. Russia 2018 said its computers for the bid had been leased and then returned to their owners after the bid. “The owner has confirmed that the computers were destroyed in the meantime.” Russia 2018 tried to get access to the Gmail accounts used during the bid from Google USA. “However . . . Google USA had not responded [to the] request.” The existence of alliances between Russia 2018 and other bidders was “categorically denied” by the bid team. But Japan 2022 representatives said a vote trading agreement “became apparent”. No supporting evidence corroborated this. There was no evidence Russia 2018 attempted unduly to influence the bidding process by contacting exco members.
Mr Eckert’s conclusion: “the evidence available was not sufficient to support any findings of misconduct”.
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