What FIFA Whitewashed From The Garcia Report

A 430-page condemnation became a 42-page everything is fine dot gif

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Jun 28 2017, 9:55pm

Original images via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons/Vice Sports Illustration

On November 13, 2014, the chairman of FIFA's ethics committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert, published his summary of the Garcia Report which investigated the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process. Eckert condensed Garcia's 18-month, 430-page investigation into 42 pages and found that the bids were "in full compliance with the relevant provisions of the FIFA Code of Ethics." It took four hours after publication for Garcia to publicly reject this summary for containing "numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions." A month later, he quit his FIFA post, condemning the organization as culturally corrupt and unfixable.

But now that FIFA has released the Garcia Report in full, we can see exactly what Eckert omitted. Unsurprisingly, Garcia was right. Eckert gutted Garcia's original report to the point where the two documents bear only passing similarities. One is a complete and total indictment of FIFA's culture and is generally embarrassing for FIFA on a corporate level and every individual on a personal level. The other says everything is fine.

The first thing to note about Eckert's summary is that 42 pages is a misleading number, considering he spends the first 19 pages on background information, summary of FIFA rules and bidding procedures, a "timeline and summary of key events," and other publicly available information. While that information is relevant in the broader context of the entire investigation, it means the actual summary portion of the document is only 23 pages.

Even then, Eckert didn't so much summarize as he did whitewash. For example, the Garcia Report spends 124 pages on Qatar's bid, dissecting several different incidents from every angle. It is thorough to the point of exhaustion and does not in any way, shape, or form absolve the Qatari bid of wrongdoing. Yet, Eckert's summary of the Qatari bid is a mere four pages and concludes that, despite "potentially problematic conduct," the Qatari bid was "all in all, not suited to compromise the integrity of the FIFA World Cup 2018/2022 bidding process as a whole," a finding that is totally unjustified by even the most generous reading of the Garcia Report.

Another example is the issue of vote-swapping. According to Garcia's report, Geoff Thompson, the chairman of the England 2018 bid, confessed to entering a vote-swapping agreement with Chung Mong-Joon, the Korean executive committee member, an assertion that's corroborated by one of Thompson's colleagues. Chung, for his part, repeatedly lied to and misled Garcia during the investigation, eroding his credibility, and refused to say for whom he actually voted. There are several other instances with other ExCo members which, at the very least, strongly suggest vote-swapping occurred.

But Eckert didn't include any of that. Instead, he hedged himself into oblivion. "There were certain indications that vote-trading might have, to a limited extent, taken place in the context of the December 2, 2010 World Cup votes. However, the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee has not established conclusive evidence in this regard."

Eckert seemed to be subscribing to the "pics or it didn't happen" theory of jurisprudence, an impossible bar considering Garcia and his team had no subpoena powers of any kind and constantly encountered uncooperative witnesses and other evidentiary roadblocks. At one point in his report, Garcia laments the fact that no executive committee member was willing to reveal for whom they voted, which, obviously, makes proving vote-swapping allegations nearly impossible. Short of two committee members drawing up a legal contract, notarized and signed by both parties in triplicate, it's hard to imagine what evidence would have been sufficient for Eckert.

At other points, Eckert seemed to come very close to fabricating conclusions of his own. To take but one example, Eckert's summary concluded "FIFA designed a bidding process for the FIFA World Cup 2018/2022 which was well-thought, robust, and professional." The words "well-thought," "robust," and "professional" or any obvious synonyms are never used in that context in the entire Garcia Report. Instead, the word the Garcia Report uses on multiple occasions is "flawed."

"Many of the flaws in the bidding process this Report identified were traceable to an Executive Committee culture of expectation and entitlement," the Garcia Report found. "A number of Executive Committee members displayed a disregard for ethical guidelines and an attitude that the rules do not apply to them."

You will not find anything like that in Eckert's summary.

But of all the issues Eckert omitted from his report, none were more brazen than the evaluation of Sepp Blatter himself. An 11-paragraph section from the Garcia Report which carefully weighed the culture Blatter permitted under his watch against his recent implementation of limited reforms was cut to five shorter paragraphs which only speak of the reforms and false allegations against him. Eckert cut the bit about Blatter approving $200,000 bonuses for suspended executive committee members. Eckert cut the part about Blatter's decision to follow an opaque bidding process and not record any formal debate on key issues. Eckert cut this:

"As head of FIFA, however, President Blatter bears some responsibility for a flawed process that engendered deep public skepticism, and for presiding over an Executive Committee whose culture of entitlement contributed to many of the issues this Report identifies."

A contemporary reading of Eckert's summary yields the most ironic conclusion: his summary of Garcia's report did all the things Garcia wrote the report to condemn. The summary engendered deep public skepticism. The summary presided over a culture of entitlement where Blatter et al took the liberty of editing out anything they didn't like.

Of course, Eckert is no longer with FIFA. The new president, Gianni Infantino, replaced him in May. "It appears," Eckert and his colleague Cornel Borbely said in a statement, "that the heads of FIFA have attached greater weight to their own and political interests than to the long-term interests of FIFA." This couldn't have come as a surprise.