Michael Garcia, a leading American investigator for FIFA and chairman of its Investigatory Chamber Ethics Committee, spent two years investigating corruption within the soccer organization, focusing specifically on the Qatar and Russia bids to host the World Cup. He presented FIFA with his findings in September, and then Ethics Committee Adjudicatory Chamber Chairman Hans-Joachim Eckert wrote a 42-page report on Garcia’s investigation. Eckert’s report was published this morning, clearing two of the most contested World Cup hosts of wrongdoing during the bidding process: Russia, set to host in 2018, and Qatar, set to host in 2022. This decision came much to Garcia’s surprise, and the investigator now plans to launch an appeal against the organization.
“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 said in a statement. “I intend to appeal this decision to the FIFA Appeal Committee.”
In his report, Eckert wrote, “As regards the procedural framework for conducting bidding procedures related to awarding the hosts of the final competitions of FIFA World Cups, the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee did not find any violations or breaches of the relevant rules and regulations.” He called the process for selecting both Qatar and Russia “well-thought, robust and professional.”
The disagreement in how the two officials viewed the findings could be most easily resolved by publishing Garcia’s report in full to the public. Clive Efford, a member of the British Parliament and the Labour’s Shadow Minister of Sport, told the BBC, “FIFA has no choice but to publish Michael Garcia's report in full if it expects anyone to believe their claims that there has been no cover-up over allegations of corruption in the World Cup bidding process.” In today’s report, FIFA drew attention to “an apparent violation of bidding rules” by the English Football Association. England was a contender to host the 2018 World Cup.
However, it is unlikely Garcia’s complete report will become public. Eckert has said in a statement, “Publishing the report in full would actually put the FIFA Ethics Committee and FIFA itself in a very difficult situation legally.” He also clarified that Garcia has asked only for “appropriate” publication of the report, meaning that some details will be stripped before it becomes public. “Part of my current examination involves deciding what form this appropriate publication should take, whether this means issuing a statement regarding the investigation report or whether certain parts of the investigation report will be published while maintaining anonymity, or indeed a combination of these possibilities,” Eckert concluded.
Though Eckert may have deemed discussions on World Cups 2018 and 2022 closed, leaders in the global soccer community have previously called for the event to be moved away from Russia over accusations of Russian involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. As for Qatar, with reports of bribery during its World Cup bid stricken from the FIFA record, the nation can now focus on another concern: the weather. The World Cup, normally played in summer, may have to be moved to the winter because of the unbearable summer heat in Qatar.