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FIFA's Corruption Report Immediately Labeled 'Erroneous' by Its Own Investigator

Soccer's leading body released a report today that apparently gave "closure" to corruption allegations against it. Within hours it was questioned by the lawyer who headed the whole investigation.

by Sally Hayden
Nov 13 2014, 7:50pm

Photo via Reuters

The level of corruption in soccer's leading body is still under question, after a FIFA report clearing Russia and Qatar of violating major bidding rules was immediately labeled "incomplete and erroneous" by the lawyer who carried out the full investigation.

Former US attorney Michael J. Garcia led the 18-month inquiry, which looked at nine teams bidding to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. They were controversially awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively four years ago, decisions that have been plagued with widespread allegations of corruption ever since, which led to Garcia's investigation. 

Though his original report is reportedly 430 pages long, the summation — released this morning by Hans-Joachim Eckert, chairman of the adjudicatory arm of FIFA's ethics committee — came to 42 pages.

The investigation involved interviewing representatives of each bid team, current and former FIFA Executive Committee members, and other officials. Each group was also asked to provide documents and follow-up material. The total quantity of documents provided — from bid teams, along with other football associations, confederations, and representatives — came to 200,000 pages.

Eckert's report today declared that there was insufficient evidence to strip either Russia or Qatar of the hosting rights and FIFA said the findings represented "a degree of closure."

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Eckert added that there were some concerns, but "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."

Yet just hours after this summary was unveiled, Garcia spoke out, 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."

Garcia plans to appeal, though the FIFA appeals committee that he would make the complaint to is appointed by the FIFA Executive Committee — the same body that he would be questioning.

'If there is evidence of criminality the force of international law could come into play.'

Damian Collins, a British MP who has campaigned for FIFA reform, told VICE News that the organization, "will never willingly change itself, it needs to be forced to by the pressure of people who care about football around the world."

Collins added that FIFA thinks it's more powerful than individual states, and he disagrees. "It thinks it can operate above the law but these issues of bribery and corruption, these allegations are currently being investigated by the FBI in America, I've asked the Serious Fraud Office in the UK if they would look at it too. If there is evidence of criminality the force of international law could come into play as well."

Indeed, US officials have said that the FBI will be stepping up a three-year-old corruption inquiry into senior FIFA officials.

Today's report criticized the England 2018 bid for sponsoring a gala dinner in former FIFA vice president Jack Warner's home country Trinidad, and accused that bidding team of securing a part-time job for a family friend of Warner's.

Greg Dyke, chairman of the English Football Association (FA) said that "questions still need to be answered" on the allegations against FIFA.

The Russian team claimed to have deleted most of their email records, saying that they had hired computers to make the bid and that this hardware was later destroyed.

When asked for his response to this, Dyke said: "Those who co-operated the most seemed to be the ones that gave them the information by which they were then criticized, like the FA. Others who didn't cooperate didn't get criticized at all. Well, there's a surprise."

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The bidding countries were not the only ones who failed to supply information to the investigation. The Guardian reported that of the 11 men who voted on the two contested World Cups and are no longer on the committee, only five provided answers to the inquiry.

Former England 2018 bid chief operating officer Simon Johnson told the Press Association that the criticism was "politically motivated whitewash," adding: "I am not sure how we can have confidence in the outcome of this report.

"The headlines today end up being about the England bid when it should be about how it has exonerated Qatar, which has overseen the deaths of hundreds of migrant workers and which has been described by the US government as funding terrorist organizations."

Garcia has been asking for the report to be published in full for several months, though even the release of the summary is progress. In September, Eckert said that only four people had seen the report, and it could be spring before any judgment was passed.

In the same month Sepp Blatter — the FIFA president who is currently launching a bid for a fifth term — said that the organization had an "exemplary" ethics setup, unmatched by any other sports organization.

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Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd