By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, United Kingdom
The New York State Attorney Michael Garcia’s long-awaited Report on the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process has been released by FIFA.
FIFA took the steps to release the Report in full after the German newspaper, ‘Bild’, received a leaked copy of it that it was planning to publish in instalments.
The Report was completed in September 2014; however, at that time, FIFA blocked the full publication of the Report, instead releasing a 42-page summary of it. The refusal to publish the full Report led to the Report’s author, Michael Garcia, resigning from his position at FIFA as Ethics Investigator.
For anyone, who had hoped that the Report would provide smoking gun evidence that would lead to Russia and/or Qatar being stripped of hosting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively, they will be sadly disappointed by the contents of the full Report.
Whilst the Report provides an account of the decadent way in which FIFA executives undertook their roles and that FIFA’s rules were regularly breached, it does not provide any clear evidence that votes were bought in order to secure the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Key points from the Report include:
- Garcia’s Report cleared Qatar over any wrongdoing and praised the Qatari team for their cooperation with the inquiry. Garcia did, however, make a number of observations linked to his section on the Qatar bid, including that Sandro Rosell (the former president of FC Barcelona), who acted as an advisor for Qatar 2022, made a $2 million payment to the 10-year old daughter of Ricardo Teixeira (with whom Rosell also had other commercial dealings), the President of the Brazilian Football Federation and a FIFA Executive Committee Member. Garcia further stated that the precise relationship between the Qatar bid and Rosell was not clear and that the communications between Rosell and the Qatar bid were vague as to their subject matter. In conclusion, Garcia stated that there was no evidence that the payment related to the Qatar bid.
- Only 5 out of 11 former FIFA Executive Committee members, involved during the bidding process, agreed to be interviewed or provide answers. Key former executives that refused to cooperate were Jack Warner, Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz and Chuck Blazer, all of whom the US authorities want to extradite to the US to stand trial in relation to corruption practices. Chuck Blazer agreed a plea bargain with the US authorities to assist the FBI.
- England 2018 bid team sought to win the votes of Jack Warner, Issa Hayatou and Mohamed Bin Hammam, whom they believed controlled blocks of votes and had a disproportionate amount of power. In doing so, The Football Association assisted in finding Warner’s banker’s son, Richard Sebro, employment at both Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and at The Football Association itself. At Warner’s request, The Football Association arranged for the Trinidad & Tobago under 20 team to spend a week in England training and playing games against English opposition. The Football Association covered all of the costs except the airfares.
- There was no evidence of collusion between the Russian bid team and another bid committee member association; however, it was noted that the computers used by the Russian bid team were leased and returned to their owner after the bidding process was complete. The result being that Garcia had a limited amount of documents available to him. He also found that there was substantial political influence in the Russian bid. Vladimir Putin met with FIFA Executive Committee members on five separate occasions in Moscow.
At this stage, it is not known whether FIFA will undertake any further reforms based on the publication of the full Report; however, because the full Report does not provide the explosive details that people believed existed regarding corruption in the bidding processes for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, it seems unlikely that the release of the Report will result in any such changes.
Jonathan Copping can be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@boltburdon.co.uk’