Fresh doubt is thrown on the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 world cups as the lawyer who led the inquiry into the bidding processes says Fifa is misrepresenting his findings.
Channel 4 News Sports Correspondent Keme Nzerem on the internal battle raging within Fifa.
The ethics committee of world football’s governing body said Michael Garcia’s inquiry, which has not been published, put both bidding processes in the clear and that it effectively silenced criticism, allowing the tournaments to go ahead unhindered.
But in a dramatic intervention on Thursday, Mr Garcia said they got it wrong and stated his intention to appeal the decision of the adjudicatory chamber of Fifa’s ethics committee, which is responsible for issuing a ruling on the basis of his report.
“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,” said Mr Garcia.
The move will put pressure on Fifa to publish his original report, which it has thus far refused to do, citing privacy concerns.
“This report, I think, is a complete whitewash. Fifa has investigated itself and found itself to be not guilty,” said Damian Collins MP, who has previously used parliamentary privilege to air allegations related to Qatar’s bid.
The opening of Mr Garcia’s inquiry was precipitated by concerns over the two bidding processes, which were run simultaneously and ended in 2010. It was carried out amid allegations around Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers in its construction industry, while both Fifa and the Gulf state have been fending off allegations of corruption.
Russia, it emerged, did not fully cooperate with the investigators, claiming that many of the documents related to its bidding process had been lost with the subsequent destruction of equipment used by its bid team.
In its summary of Mr Garcia’s findings, the adjudicatory chamber wrote that any concerns over the winning bids were minor. It added that, “in particular, the effects of these occurrences on the bidding process as a whole were far from reaching any threshold that would require returning to the bidding process, let alone reopening it – a decision which anyway would not fall under the Fifa ethics committee’s competence”.
“The assessment of the 2018/2022 Fifa world cups bidding process is therefore closed for the Fifa ethics committee.” That decision is now in serious doubt.
Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe Damian Collins criticises Fifa
The report said that unnamed officials could still be investigated over allegations of “possible misconduct identified in the course of the investigation”.
It criticised the English bid team, accusing it of bowing to “inappropriate requests” from former Fifa powerbroker Jack Warner. The Football Association (FA) said it does “not accept any criticism regarding the integrity of England’s bid or any of the individuals involved”.
The former FA chairman Lord Triesman, a longstanding critic of Fifa, is also accused of refusing to cooperate with the inquiry.
England’s bid team was accused of helping an acquaintance of Warner, then the president of the Concacaf federation, to find part-time employment in the United Kingdom. The bid team was also accused of spending $55,000 (£35,000 approx) to sponsor a gala event in his native Trinidad and Tobago.
Warner withdrew from football in 2011 after he was suspended by FIFA following allegations in a cash-for-votes scandal in the run-up to that year’s presidential election.
The report said that the English bid team’s willingness to accommodate Warner’s requests was “an apparent violation of bidding rules and the Fifa code of ethics”.
“Mr Warner sought to exploit the perception of his power to control ‘blocks of votes’ within the Fifa executive committee, showering the England 2018 bid team with inappropriate requests,” said the report.
“According to the findings of the investigatory chamber of the Fifa ethics committee, the bid team often accommodated Mr Warner’s wishes, in apparent violation of bidding rules and the Fifa code of ethics.
“By providing the individual concerned employment, England 2018 gave the appearance that it sought to confer a personal benefit on Mr Warner in order to influence his vote.”
We do not accept any criticism regarding the integrity of England’s bid or any of the individuals involved The FA
An FA spokesman said: “We note the Fifa ethics committee has today published a 42-page report in relation to the bidding processes for the Fifa world cups in 2018 and 2022.
“We were not given any prior notice of the report before publication. We do not accept any criticism regarding the integrity of England’s bid or any of the individuals involved.
“We conducted a transparent bid and, as the report demonstrates with its reference to the England bid team’s ‘full and valuable cooperation’, willingly complied with the investigation. We maintain that transparency and cooperation around this entire process from all involved is crucial to its credibility.
“We also note that after a lengthy investigatory process and assessment, the report has concluded that the ‘potentially problematic facts and circumstances identified by the report regarding the England 2018 bid were, all in all, not suited to compromise the integrity of the Fifa world cup 2018/22 bidding process as a whole’.”
The Shadow Minister for Sport Clive Efford calls on Fifa to release Michael Garcia’s full report.