In what appears to be a reversal of an earlier decision, executives of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) have voted unanimously to publish a version of a report of the probe into corruption of bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments. FIFA President, Sept Blatter describes the version as being legally appropriate, and further states that Russia and Qatar will remain the respective hosts.
The organization has been mired in controversy, since reports of corruption in the bidding process have surfaced, and an independent ethics committee headed by U.S. Attorney was hired to lead an investigation. After fours years of investigation, the report was submitted on Sept 5. 2014. FIFA later elected to release a 42-page summary of the 430-page report, in which both Russia and Qatar were cleared of any corruption charges. The author of the report, Michael Garcia, has disputed the veracity of the summary, which he described as being erroneous and incomplete, and eventually resigned in response to FIFA’s resistance to publish the report in its entirety. The decision to publish a version of the full report is seen a major change in policy for FIFA, which has steadfastly resisted pressure from the author and others to publish the complete report, citing legal reasons. However, the version to be published by FIFA is expected to be heavily redacted in order to protect the confidentiality of witnesses, and will only be released when ongoing investigations into the actions of five people are completed.
The FIFA decision to publish the report by Michael Garcia, is intended to shed some light on the events that occurred during the bidding process, where the World Cup of Soccer tournaments were awarded to Russia and Qatar. However, Blatter said that it was reached after the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Independent Ethics Committee was asked to agree to the publication. So far only six people have seen the full report, in which 75 witnesses were interviewed by Garcia. The 42-page summary report which was released in November by the judge of the ethics committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert, contained incidents of what was described as inappropriate conduct during the bidding process. FIFA officials declined to adjust the bidding process, citing insufficient evidence. Garcia believes that his independence was compromised, while Blatter insists that there will be no revisiting of the bidding that awarded the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively, as the report does not suggest any legal grounds for it to be done. Michael Garcia is expected to be replaced by Swiss lawyer, Cornel Borbely, who has been acting as Garcia’s deputy, and led the investigation of the bids by Russia and Qatar.
The move by FIFA to publish what appears to be a sanitized version of the report, was welcomed by other members of the executive committee. This includes vice-president Jim Boyce, who says that it indicates that FIFA demonstrates transparency, and can proceed with planning of the world’s favorite sport of football. Sepp Blatter also states that recommendations by other independent experts are being incorporated to improve the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup tournament.
By Dale Davidson