‘Incomplete’ and ‘erroneous’ are two of the milder criticisms of FIFA’s summary of the report on corruption concerning World Cup bids. That these are the words of the head of the investigation, Michael Garcia, perhaps adds more weight to them.
Reactions have been flooding in thick and fast since FIFA published the synopsis, written by the footballing body’s independent ethics adjudicator Hans-Joachim Eckert. In it, Qatar and Russia – and ultimately FIFA – were cleared of wrongdoing in their successful bids for the 2022 and 2018 World Cups.
FIFA investigation into FIFA clears them of corruption. You couldn't make it up. Except they did according to their own investigator #ethics— Tim Burgess (@Tim_Burgess) November 14, 2014
The FA and FFA react
England and Australia’s campaigns, however, were found to be problematic. Naturally, both the English Football Association (FA) and Football Federation Australia (FAA) have issued statements in response.
The FA was purported to have made “inappropriate requests” during the bidding process.
“We were not given any prior notice of the report before publication”, the FA declared. “We do not accept any criticism regarding the integrity of England’s bid or any of the individuals involved.”
While the FAA Chairman Frank Lowy asserted: “FFA did its best to run a competitive and compliant bid and to do it wherever possible hand-in-hand with the Australian government, with the customary government oversight.”“We also involved, wherever possible, other bodies such as UNICEF and FIFA itself. In addition, the financial management of the bid funds were routinely reported to Government and reviewed by independent external auditors”, he added.
Australia was accused of making “certain payments” to the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).
Lowy stressed that FIFA had encouraged the Australian Bid to demonstrate their commitment to football, particularly in developing regions.
“It is clear that this led us to be misled in particular relating to a payment made to CONCACAF”, said Lowy, “which was later revealed to have been misappropriated.”
The Australian Bid team reportedly even received Garcia’s written thanks for their cooperation with the inquiry.
Eckert ‘surprised’ by criticism
The Internet has been awash with objections to Eckert’s summary. The ethics adjudicator himself, however, reportedly told Reuters news agency he was surprised by the criticism, claiming it could be ‘misunderstanding’.
This seems to contradict a conversation Eckert is reported to have had with German journalist Tim Röhn, who quoted him as saying “Criticism is a part of life.”
Many critics have suggested the report – which was supposed to provide closure to the implications of collusion between FIFA and Qatar and FIFA and Russia – has actually raised more questions than answers.
If Qatar's winning World Cup bid really was clean , can FIFA please explain how they chose a nation where temps make the game impossible?— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) November 14, 2014
Mondial blog called it "Another shambolic day in the history of FIFA", saying “this sloppy excuse of a summary report betrays the very people it should protect.”
Britain strikes back
Reactions in the British media have been equally damning.
A question of ethics
The ethics of FIFA’s own independent ethics adjudicator have also come under fire. Writing on Mondial blog, journalist James Corbett slammed the credibility of the report.
“What transpires in this summary report is the worst of both worlds. It trashes the credibility of both witnesses, while also using their evidence to form the spine of their investigation into each bid. It is not only mind-boggling hypocrisy, but entirely unethical”, and asked “Why were they (two of the whistleblowers) promised anonymity only to have it blown in the summary report?”
British former football star-turned-football pundit Gary Lineker has been equally disparaging of the summary and its findings.
The FA being slammed for its ethics by FIFA is like being chastised by @GordonRamsay for bad language after uttering the word 'bloody'.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 13, 2014
He's good that Roger Federer. I think he's my 2nd favourite Swiss fella...just behind Sepp Blatter.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 13, 2014
And hundreds of other people have taken to the Internet to criticise the findings.
Got my hands on the Fifa report. pic.twitter.com/hWdC7yi5ib— Max Rushden (@maxrushden) November 13, 2014
GET away with any crime the FIFA way by investigating it yourself, reading the report yourself, then blaming everyone else. (via @NotTwips)— Twop Twips (@TwopTwips) November 14, 2014
FIFA investigate FIFA and come to the conclusion that FIFA are not corrupt. pic.twitter.com/WwNuBC1fBo— 433 (@by433) November 14, 2014
Shame on the English FA, we need to hold ourselves to Qatar and Sepp Blatter's higher standards of morals and ethics.— Mike Cheshire (@MikeEcoPR) November 13, 2014
Not forgetting the FBI…
Meanwhile, the FBI is purportedly ‘stepping up’ a criminal investigation into corruption within FIFA, according to a CNN report. The specific targets under scrutiny are unknown to the public.
What is clear, though, is that the report has stirred up a hornets’ nest of scandal for FIFA’s PR department. And it doesn’t look like calming down anytime soon.