FIFA has cleared Qatar of wrongdoing following an inquiry into corruption allegations surrounding its 2022 World Cup bid.
The Gulf state had been accused of paying FIFA officials over three million euros to secure backing for its tournament bid. However, in a much-anticipated 42-page summary of a 350-page report, football’s international governing body absolved Qatar of any wrongdoing.
Although the report uncovered “certain indications of potentially problematic conduct of specific individuals”, this was found not to have compromised the bidding process. As part of the investigation the Qatar bidding team’s relationship with Mohamed Bin Hammam was investigated. Bin Hamman, the former president of the Asian Football Confederation, was banned for life from organised football in 2011. FIFA’s report concluded the tie between Bin Hamman and the Qatar bid was a “distant relative to the relationships of other FIFA Executive Committee members from bid nations.”
No evidence of misconduct
Hans-Joachim Eckert, FIFA’s independent ethics adjudicator, carried out the two-year inquiry which investigated the conduct of each of the nine bidding nations for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
When looking into Russia’s successful 2018 World Cup bid, he found no evidence of misconduct, although “The Russia 2018 Bid Committee made only a limited amount of documents available for review”. This was explained, the report stated, by the fact that “the computers used at the time by the Russia Bid Committee had been leased and then returned to their owner after the Bidding Process. The owner has confirmed that the computers were destroyed in the meantime.”
Any rule breaches on the part of Qatar or Russia were, Eckert wrote, “of very limited scope.”
Russia beat off joint bids by Spain and Portugal, and the Netherlands and Belgium.
England was also in the running and has been roundly criticised in the report for “inappropriate requests” surrounding its bid. The English Football Association (FA) has consistently called for more transparency in the voting process and has openly denounced FIFA for not clamping down hard enough on alleged corruption.
It came as a surprise to some, then, when Eckert’s report accused the FA of trying to “curry favour” with former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner in “an apparent violation of bidding rules”. The England bid team is alleged to have tried to win the Trinidad and Tobago national’s support by: – Letting Trinidad and Tobago’s under-20 squad hold a 2009 training camp in the United Kingdom – Trying to help “a person of interest” to Warner find a part time job in the UK – Sponsoring a 44,000-euro gala dinner for the Caribbean Football Union
FIFA claims the FA harmed “the image of FIFA and the bidding process” by showing “a willingness, time and again” to satisfy Warner’s expectations.
Social media is abuzz with reactions to the inquiry. Some imply the report was unfair, while others suggested FIFA should be disbanded.
If I had one wish for football, it would be that FIFA was disbanded and replaced by a transparent governing body that put its sport first.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 13, 2014
Of course Qatar were cleared of wrongdoing but England are corrupt 😂 #typicalFIFA— Lauren Utton (@LaurenUtton) November 13, 2014
Fifa clears Fifa of all the things, makes Fifa a sandwich and runs Fifa a nice bath.— Toby Manhire (@toby_etc) November 13, 2014
Several motions were put forward for teams to boycott forthcoming World Cups.
No better way of discrediting FIFA than refusing to participate in their competitions. Would anyone be brave enough to do that though?— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) November 13, 2014
Would countries have the plums to boycott the Qatar WC, it's the only way to take a strong stance against FIFA #WorldCup2022— JQ (@LordQuailey) November 13, 2014
Then there are those who seem to be enjoying watching events unfold…
Australia’s 2022 bid also raised questions in the inquiry. As such, specific individuals involved in both Australia’s and England’s bids could now face formal action. However, Michael Garcia, who headed the investigation, has expressed disagreement with the way Eckert has presented the report. His decision, Garcia claims, “contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts. I intend to appeal this decision to the FIFA Appeal Committee.”
Bidding process closed
The report puts an end to any notion of reopening the bidding processes for the 2018 or 2022 championships, saying the effects of certain “occurrences on the bidding process as a whole were far from reaching any threshold that would require returning to the bidding process, let alone reopening it – a decision which anyway would not fall under the FIFA Ethics Committee’s competence.
“The assessment of the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cups bidding process is therefore closed for the FIFA Ethics Committee.”
FIFA currently has no plans to make the full report public.