FIFA judge clears Russia and Qatar of wrongdoing
The much-anticipated conclusions on the so-called Garcia report, looking into the alleged corruption in relation to the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, have been released and no proof of severe foul play has been found, according to the head of the adjudicatory arm of FIFA’s ethics committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert.
The German judge has had three months to look through the plus 400 pages report and the more than 200.000 pages of documentation that the FIFA appointed lawyer Michael Garcia has collected as head of the committee's investigatory chamber.
In his statement on the report, Eckert finds that the allegations against and the results of the investigations of the bidding teams of both Russia and Qatar are of too little substance to make any changes regarding the location of the next two world Cups.
In the case of both the winning bids, as well as the Australian and the English bid, the report concludes that “there are certain indications of potentially problematic conduct of specific individuals in the light of relevant FIFA Ethics rules.” But that these indications were “not suited to compromise the integrity of the FIFA World Cup 2018/2022 bidding process as a whole,” the statement says.
A series of recommendations
Based on his investigation, Michael Garcia makes a series of recommendations on how FIFA could reform the bidding process, which Eckert refers to and supports in his own statement.
These include a maximum limit of two four-year terms for FIFA executive committee members, a more objective bid evaluation and selection procedure, strict limitations on FIFA ExCo members' travels to bidding nations, and an enhanced reporting system regarding gifts from bid teams and other arrangements that could influence the host selection.
The report also recommends that bid teams should be obliged to do a comprehensive registration of outside consultants and companies working for the bid and to preserve all records connected to the bid teams’ activities for at least five years. Getting all the required information from the bid teams has in some cases proven difficult or outright imposible, according to Garcia.
Met with harsh critisism
The conclusions of Eckert's statement on the report have not been met with great surprise by the media, and the first critics of the process have already been forwarding their reviews.
Most noticable is the author of the report, Michael Garcia, who according to the New York Times says about Eckert's reading that it “contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts. I intend to appeal this decision to the FIFA Appeal Committee”.
The New York Times also quotes a source, who should be briefed on the Garcia report’s contents, saying that Garcia's investigations uncovered ethics violations by a number of members of the executive committee and that many would most likely face charges.
British MP Damian Collins, who has been an outspoken critic of FIFA for years called the report a ‘whitewash’:
“FIFA has investigated itself and not surprisingly found itself not guilty,” Collins said according to skysports.com.
“The truth remains that the serious allegations of bribery, of payments from bidding countries to senior FIFA executives, that’s never properly been investigated by FIFA. The truth is they just don’t know and yet they are prepared to say they are not guilty, there’s no problem here.”
Find more reactions to the statement on the report at The Guardian, where reactions are continuously updated.