FIFA will publish Michael Garcia's report into world cup
Redacted version will be made available to public
Garcia resigned from his role earlier this week
U.S. lawyer hit out at "lack of leadership" from FIFA
Is this the moment the world finally gets to know what really happened in December 2010 when FIFA decided to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar?
Football’s world governing body has decided to publish a redacted version of Michael Garcia’s report into alleged corruption surrounding the bidding process for the tournaments after months of delay and intense criticism.
The decision did not require a vote and was unanimously endorsed by FIFA’s 25-person executive committee during its two-day meeting in Marrakech, Morocco.
“I have asked the FIFA ExCo to vote in favor of the publication of the 2018/2022 inquiry report by the investigatory chamber,” said FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Blatter also insisted that there would not be a re-vote on the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
“The report is about history and I am focused on the future,” added Blatter while referring to the recommendation made by Domenico Scala, FIFA’s head of compliance.
“We will not revisit the 2018 and 2022 vote and a report by independent, external legal experts commissioned by Mr. Scala supports the view that there are no legal grounds to revoke the Executive Committee’s decision on the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
“We are already in the process of incorporating recommendations made by independent experts including the ethics committee for how the FIFA World Cup selection process can be improved so that everyone can be confident that the 2026 bidding process will be fair, ethical and open.”
In a press conference which followed his statement, he added: “It would really need an earthquake, extremely important new elements to go back on this World Cup in Qatar.”
FIFA says it will confirm the dates for the World Cup in Qatar at its next executive committee meeting in Switzerland in March.
It is expected to be held in the winter with fears over the intense heat in the Gulf State.
Meanwhile, the report will not be published until current investigations into five individuals are completed, and it’s expected to be heavily redacted.
Three members of the committee – Spain’s María Villar Llona, Wowrawi Makudi, of Thailand and Belgium’s Michel D’Hooghe – were being investigated by Garcia for either alleged code breaches during the bidding process or for failing to comply with his probe
Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who led the inspection team visiting the candidates to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments and former German World Cup winner Franz Beckenbauer are also facing charges from the FIFA ethics committee which both men have denied.
Blatter also confirmed that Garcia has been replaced by his deputy, Cornel Borbély, who he describes as “an outstanding lawyer”.
“It is important that the work of the ethics committee continues and that any instances of wrongdoing are fully investigated and their perpetrators pursued and sanctioned,” said Blatter.
“I have been informed that various cases against individuals for alleged rule violations have been opened by the investigatory chamber and are currently under review by the adjudicatory chamber.
“The organization fully supports the rigorous pursuit of these cases. And, while FIFA as an organization does not have prosecutorial powers, we have provided information and the full report from Mr. Garcia to the Swiss General Attorney’s Office and have pledged our cooperation.”
Michel Platini, head of UEFA, the European governing body, also welcomed the decision to publish the report.
“It was important that the FIFA Executive Committee decided today to publish the Garcia report,” he said on Twitter via his spokesman, Pedro Pinto.
“I have always battled for transparency and this is a step in the right direction.
“Let us hope that the report can now be published as quickly as possible. The credibility of FIFA depends on it.”
The move comes just days after Garcia resigned from his role citing a “lack of leadership” at the top of world football’s governing body.
Garcia quit following FIFA’s rejection of his appeal after he had launched a complaint about how his report had been summarized by Hans-Joachim Eckert – FIFA’s independent ethics judge.
“I disagree with the Appeal Committee’s decision,” said the American lawyer – now chairman of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee – in a public statement.
“It now appears that, at least for the foreseeable future, the Eckert Decision will stand as the final word on the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process.
“No independent governance committee, investigator, or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organization.”
Blatter said he was surprised by Garcia’s resignation but that the “work of the Ethics Committee will nonetheless continue.”
“Pending the election of a new chairman of the Ethics Committee by the FIFA Congress, the FIFA Executive Committee will appoint an acting chairman to serve as a replacement for Mr Garcia,” added Blatter, who will be at FIFA ExCo’s meeting in Marrakech on Thursday and Friday.
Garcia’s decision to leave his role came following months of frustration for the New York Attorney.
In September, when he completed his report, he spoke out and declared that it should be made public but with redactions to ensure witness confidentiality was not compromised.
FIFA rejected his request on the grounds that witness confidentiality for his work could prove difficult to sustain if the report was published and threatened to sanction him for his outburst.
Then Eckert published his summary, prompting Garcia to respond by saying the German judge’s 42-page report contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations.”
FIFA has been under increasing pressure from the media and football fans to publish the report and embrace a period of reform.
Sponsors such as Visa and Coca-Cola have both gone public with their grievances over FIFA’s lack of transparency, while Sony will not be renewing its deal when it ends at the end of this year.
Widespread skepticism over the way Russia and Qatar won the rights to host the next two tournaments remain, despite both countries being cleared of any wrongdoing by Eckert’s summary.
Both Russia and Qatar have always denied they were involved in any wrongdoing during the bidding process.
The outcome of the vote is unlikely to hinder Blatter’s chances of retaining the presidency when the elections are held in May.
Blatter, who is 78, is poised to win a fifth term in office and faces little opposition with votes from Asia, Africa and South America already assured.
UEFA has yet to publicly back a candidate, but it has distanced itself from the bid by Frenchman Jerome Champagne, the only man to have publicly announced his plan to stand against Blatter.
Frenchman Platini, the UEFA president, has ruled out running against Blatter but there is now a race against time for his organization to thrown their weight behind a candidate.
One option for UEFA would be Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, the Jordanian Prince, who is also a vice-president of FIFA.
Al-Hussein is one of the most forward thinking members of the ExCo and publicly backed the publishing of the report.
Yet Al-Hussein could be thwarted by his own confederation by the Asian Football Confederation, which has already pledged its support to Blatter.
If Al-Hussein is unable to secure the support of his own confederation it would mean his challenge would be over before it had even begun.