Fifa tries to silence criticism in fallout from Garcia report

Michael Garcia says report was mis represented accurately by Hans-Joachim Eckert

Michael Garcia could now choose to leak his entire report or take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/FIFA/FIFA via Getty Image

Once more through the looking glass. In a flurry of press releases, Fifa yesterday again attempted to bolt the stable door on its botched investigation into World Cup bidding long after a herd of horses had galloped over the horizon.

Ahead of a two-day meeting of the Fifa executive committee in Marrakech, its tactic of trying to drown out criticism in bureaucratic gobbledygook appeared unlikely to succeed. With Fifa's executives touching down ahead of a meeting that will again be dominated by discussion of Michael Garcia's report, after the German Fifa executive Theo Zwanziger forced a vote over whether to publish it in full, a familiar process cranked into gear.

First, its appeals committee rejected a claim from Garcia, the head of the investigative arm of its ethics committee, that Hans-Joachim Eckert, the head of the adjudicatory arm, had misrepresented his 430-page report.

Eckert’s 42-page summary was published last month and effectively cleared 2018 host Russia and 2022 host Qatar of serious wrongdoing despite admitting the former had refused to co-operate and a long list of question marks over the latter. Hours after the summary was published, Garcia reported his colleague to the appeals committee claiming his summary contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations”.

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Yet in a triumph of which Big Brother's Ministry of Truth would be proud, the appeals committee yesterday found Garcia had nothing to appeal against. Eckert's summary only represented an opinion, it ruled, therefore Garcia had no case. Minutes earlier, Fifa's disciplinary committee had ruled that complaints from two whistleblowers that their confidentiality had been breached also had no merit. Of all the distasteful aspects of the fallout from the cash-soaked scramble to host the world's biggest sporting event, the treatment of Bonita Mersiades and Phaedra Almajid is among the worst.

Confidential

Mersiades was an executive on the Australia 2022 bid and Almajid had a senior communications role on the Qatar 2022 bid. Both had already spoken out about their experiences but agreed to co-operate with Garcia on the agreement that their evidence would remain confidential. Yet when Eckert published his summary he dismissed their evidence and turned on both.

The ball is back in Garcia's court. He could now choose to leak his entire report or take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He might prefer to wait until the outcome of Friday's board meeting, during which the head of the audit committee, Domenico Scala, will update members on how much of the report he is prepared to share with them and they will vote on whether to release it in full.