The FIFA investigation regarding the World Cup bids of Qatar and Russia concluded with corruption allegations cleared and their bids maintained. Results were released Thursday by FIFA’s head ethics judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert, who admitted “potentially problematic conduct” by other interested nations but did not find the same with the two hosting nations.
The voting for those two tournaments occurred in 2010. Russia emerged triumphant over England, a Spain-Portugal joint bid, and a Netherlands-Belgium bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Qatar beat the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Australia to win the 2022 tournament. While notable, the results lead to many questions—especially considering the Qatar tournament would be held during its summer of extreme heat.
Eckert released his 42 page summary after reviewing an extensive report by Michael J. Garcia, former U.S. attorney and head of the FIFA investigatory chamber. Garcia’s allegations arose after several years of investigating the nations bidding for future World Cups in 2010.
Eckert concluded that Garcia failed to present the needed evidence to support corruption allegations against Russia and Qatar in connection with their World Cup bids and cleared them of serious wrong-doing. However, he indicated that England’s 2018 bid was problematic. English officials faced accusations of attempts to influence Jack Warner (former disgraced FIFA president) and attempting to allure Caribbean soccer officials with dinner and a gala valued at 35,000 pounds along with a friendly match against Trinidad. Australia also faced criticism for bidding violations by two of its official consultants.
Garcia intends to submit an appeal to the FIFA ethics committee. He described the Eckert’s report as containing “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions.” He intends to release the full contents of his 400-plus page report in its entirety, and action that is already facing serious criticism and dispute.
Qatar was considered the primary offender of possible World Cup bid misconduct due to its connections with questionable elements. It was found culpable for misconduct regarding the use of consultants, , much in the same way as Australia, but the actions were not considered enough to compromise integrity of the voting process. Connections to former FIFA executive Mohamed bin Hamman, were considered personal but without any ethical impact to the bidding and voting processes. Bin Hamman was dismissed from his position after being involved in another bribery scheme.
Russia officials failed to be forthcoming during the investigation which suggested immediate suspicion. Officials not only limited the number of documents provided but claimed further information was unavailable because they discarded the previous computer system. However, while this behavior was chastised, it was not considered corruption.
Investigations will likely continue despite Eckert’s conclusions. Of the 22 people who voted for the locations of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, six are linked to impropriety scandals.
With corruption allegations cleared, Qatar and Russia will continue to host their assigned World Cup tournaments as per their original bids. Although the practices of England and Australia were ruled questionable, sanctions are unlikely. FIFA intends to start the long process of reconsidering its bidding process with no clear deadline on when new procedures will surface.
By: Jocelyn Mackie