As first reported by The18 yesterday, in the least surprising news since The Pope admitted to a fondness for Jesus, FIFA’s investigation into alleged corruption and improper conduct during the 2018/2022 World Cup Bidding Process has cleared the successful Qatar 2022 and Russia 2018 bid teams of any wrong-doing. While the content of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee’s report – led by Attorney Michael Garcia – will remain confidential, the Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee has released a statement summarising the findings of the investigation, concluding that the Committee “did not find any violations or breaches of the relevant rules and regulations.”
Just so we’re all on the same page, that’s a summary statement from FIFA giving their interpretation of a report compiled by FIFA that will never see the cold light of day, investigating mal-practice and corruption within FIFA.
What’s the Swedish phrase for “conflict of interest?"
Unsurprising shock number one is that Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup has been wholly exonerated of wrong-doing, despite overwhelming evidence – acknowledged in the report – that Mohammed bin Hammam (since banned for life from any football-related activity) was guilty of bribing members of the FIFA Executive Committee responsible for selecting host nations for the World Cup.
According to the statement, the report found that Bin Hammam:
- Made payments to high-ranking African Football Federation (CAF) officials during the time before the World Cup vote
- Made payments totalling $1.2m to FIFA Executive Committee member Jack Warner (since banned) shortly after the World Cup vote
- Offered to pay the legal fees of then OFC President and FIFA Executive Committee member Reynald Temarii if he appealed his own ban (since upheld) for breach of FIFA code, thus depriving the OFC of a vote (the OFC had publicly stated its favor for Australia and England’s respective bids prior to the vote)
Pretty damning, right? Not according to FIFA.
Apparently, FIFA’s investigation saw evidence “strongly suggesting” the payments made by Bin Hammam to Warner and the CAF officials were to support his aborted bid to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA President, not to influence the outcome of the World Cup bid. The nature of the strongly suggestive evidence isn’t made clear.
Most incredulous, however, is FIFA’s assertion that “the relationship between him (bin Hammam) and the bid team appeared to be somewhat distant” and that he “did not have a formal role with any bid."
Let us remind you – and FIFA, it appears – of Mohammed bin Hammam’s background: he was born, raised, and resides in Qatar. From 1972 to 1996 he worked at the Qatar football federation, before becoming a FIFA Executive Committee member (you know, the guys who vote on World Cup hosts), a position he held until his ban from football in 2011. The committee’s statement says quite clearly that he “actively supported the Qatar 2022 bid as the vote neared”, and yet in the same breath argues there is no direct link between Qatar 2022 and the payments made by bin Hammam.
Honestly FIFA, are you f*cking kidding us? Do you genuinely believe that a man so intrinsically linked with both Qatari football and FIFA would have a “distant” relationship with the Qatar 2022 bid team? Were you really expecting to find a neat and tidy audit trail linking bin Hammam’s bungs to Qatar 2022? Perhaps you were after an email from bin Hammam entitled “BUNGS” saying “hey guys, I’ve had this great idea…?"
The FIFA statement notes in its summary remarks that to assume “envelopes full of cash are given in exchange for votes on a FIFA World Cup host is naïve…corruption is executed in much more sophisticated ways.” There’s only one side displaying naiveté here, and it’s not us.
Unsurprising shock number two is the clearing of Russia’s successful bid to host the 2018 World Cup, in large part due to Russia’s deployment of the wholly-robust and widely-respected legal defense colloquially referred to as “the dog ate my homework.”
The summary states:
“The Russia 2018 Bid Committee made only a limited amount of documents available for review… explained by the fact that the computers used by the Bid Committee had been leased and then returned to their owner…The owner has confirmed that the computers were destroyed in the meantime.”
What’s more, when asked by FIFA to provide communications relevant to the investigation, the 2018 Russia Bid Committee was suddenly unable to access Gmail accounts used during the bidding process, and therefore failed to provide FIFA with any relevant emails.
You’ll be wholly unsurprised to learn that the FIFA investigation was subsequently unable to find evidence “sufficient to support any findings of misconduct” relating to collusion or bribes.
Well, no sh*t Sherlock.
What does FIFA stand for?
To be clear, no federation came out of the investigation smelling of roses: England was accused for being overly cosy with the aforementioned Warner; Japan was said to have given expensive gifts to officials, while there was also evidence of collusion between Australia and CONCACAF.
But the overwhelming lesson from FIFA’s investigation into FIFA is: “so long as you don’t give us any evidence of your own wrongdoing, we will go out of our way to ensure we don’t find any evidence of your wrongdoing.”
FIFA have presented this statement as a line drawn under the matter once and for all, stating that “FIFA welcomes the fact that a degree of closure has been reached.” However, today, Michael Garcia issued his own press release distancing himself from the statement:
“Today’s decision by the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the investigatory chamber’s report.”
Garcia intends to appeal the Adjudicatory Committee’s findings, which, in short, means this story is going to run and run.
All of which begs the question: what does FIFA stand for? Right now, our best guess is: Farcically Incompetent Football Administration.