Fifa publish Garcia report after ‘illegal leak’ to newspaper

Decision was made to ‘to avoid the dissemination of any misleading information’

Michael Garcia’s report into the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively has been released by Fifa. Photograph: Walter Bieri/EPA

Michael Garcia’s report into the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively has been released by Fifa. Photograph: Walter Bieri/EPA

 

Fifa has taken the dramatic step of publishing a controversial internal report into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups after it was leaked to a German newspaper this week.

Produced by Fifa’s chief ethics investigator Michael Garcia in 2014, the report’s contents have been kept secret until Bild obtained a copy and started publishing it on Tuesday.

The first set of revelations from the so-called Garcia report were not particularly new but still painted a bleak picture of the background to the infamous 2010 vote that gave the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

More damning revelations about the Qatari bid, however, were expected from Bild on Wednesday, only for Fifa to spike its guns by publishing the whole report on its website.

In a statement, Fifa said the new bosses of its independent ethics committee, chief investigator Maria Claudia Rojas and lead judge Vassilios Skouris, had taken the decision.

It said Fifa president Gianni Infantino and the current members of the Fifa Council had been calling for this move for over a year but had been blocked by the predecessors of Rojas and Skouris, Cornel Borbely and Hans-Joachim Eckert, who were unceremoniously replaced last month.

Borbely co-authored the report with Garcia and Eckert wrote a highly contentious 42-page “summary” of the report which Garcia immediately disowned, before resigning.

The Fifa statement added: “The ethics committee will meet in its full composition under the new chairpersons for the first time next week, and it was already planned to use this opportunity to discuss the publication of the report.

“However, as the document has been illegally leaked to a German newspaper, the new chairpersons have requested the immediate publication of the full report (including the reports on the Russian and US bid teams, which were conducted by Mr Borbely alone) in order to avoid the dissemination of any misleading information.

“For the sake of transparency, Fifa welcomes the news that this report has now been finally published.”

The successful bids by Russia and Qatar in 2010 have been mired in controversy ever since, particularly as the free-spending Gulf state beat powerful rivals to the 2022 prize such as the United States.

After repeated claims about corruption in the run-up to those votes, Fifa asked its then-chief ethics investigator Garcia to compile a report into the bidding nations for both World Cups.

Until Bild started to release extracts from his report on Monday, the world had only ever seen Eckert’s assessment of Garcia’s work.

Among the first stories revealed by Bild were claims that the Qataris flew three members of Fifa’s executive committee to a party in Rio on a private jet shortly before the vote, the Qatari bid used access to its state-of-the-art Aspire sports academy to influence voters and €1.8 million was sent to a bank account belonging to the 10-year-old daughter of another ExCo voter.

That last allegation was first made by the Daily Telegraph in 2014 and there is a sense that many of the most lurid claims have been reported by one media outlet or another over the last few years.

Bild journalist Peter Rossberg himself wrote on Facebook there are “no surprises” for anybody who has followed this story closely. In fact, he went on to write that “the report does not provide proof that World Cup 2018 or 2022 has been bought”.

But on Tuesday, Bild described the Garcia report as another piece in the puzzle and suggests that only when all those pieces are put together will the complete picture be obvious.

For example, seeing the whole report reveals how Eckert sanitised Garcia’s opinion on the way the Qataris used Aspire, which had satellite operations in five countries with Fifa voters, to “curry favour”.

The American lawyer wrote “those actions served to undermine the integrity of the bidding process”, but Eckert translated this as “potentially problematic facts and circumstances . . . [that] were, all in all, not suited to compromise the integrity of the bidding process as a whole”.

It is little wonder an indignant Garcia returned to the US accusing his German colleague of making “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations”.

Now Fifa has decided to air all of these allegations, it would seem very unlikely that the report contains anything strong enough to see Qatar or Russia, for that matter, stripped of the World Cup.

That does not mean, however, Qatar 2022 is out of the woods, though, as criminal investigations into the bid, some fuelled by Garcia’s work, continue in France, Switzerland and elsewhere, while the country’s diplomatic row with its neighbours will raise serious questions about its suitability to stage a global event if it is not resolved in the coming months.

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