FIFA’s Own Goal

You never really want to see in an announcement of the finalisation – or is it! – of an investigation into state sponsored corruption that “a degree of closure has been reached”.

You really want to see something a little bit more definitive.

Alas FIFA – the governing body of the beautiful game has done itself any favours into its investigation of the 2022 World Cup bid.

Before we get into the report itself – which surely rates as one of the stranger reports that we have brought to your attention – lets go back.

On 2 December 2010, FIFA appointed Qatar as host for the 2022 World Cup.

During May 2011, allegations of bribery on the part of two members of the FIFA Executive Committee were tabled by Lord Triesman of the English FA. These allegations were based on information from a whistleblower involved with the Qatari bid.

On 17 July 2012, in the wake of announced anti-corruption reforms by the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, FIFA appointed former United States attorney Michael J. Garcia as the chairman of the investigative branch of its Ethics Committee, while German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert was appointed as the chairman of the Ethics Committee’s adjudication chamber.

And that is pretty much the point when things started to go bad for this investigation.

Garcia delivered his 350-page report in September 2014, and it was subsequently announced by Hans-Joachim Eckert, the head of the adjudicatory arm of FIFA’s ethics committee, that it would not be made public for legal reasons. Eckert later announced that his overview of the Garcia report with Garcia’s main findings, summary, conclusions and recommendations will be published by the middle of November 2014.

On 13 November 2014, Hans-Joachim Eckert released a 42-page summary of his findings after reviewing Michael Garcia’s report; the summary cleared both Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing during the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, leaving Russia and Qatar free to stage their respective World Cups.

The summary noted that Russia provided only a limited amount of documents available for review as the computers leased to the Russian team had been destroyed, and several email accounts were unable to be accessed.

Hours after the Eckert summary was released, Garcia himself criticized it for being “materially incomplete” with “erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions”, while declaring his intention to appeal to Fifa’s Appeal Committee.  Eckert, who was “surprised” by Garcia’s response, refused to accede to calls to release the Garcia report, citing the “rights of confidentiality for continental law”.

Less than a week later, Eckert was quoted as saying that the investigation was only at “an interim stage” and that Garcia “can now continue investigating towards the final report”.

So the report attached should be read in that context – contested by the two people drafted to author it.

And this is an disturbingly poorly written report / summary.

There is no real attempt to get to the issues at hand and instead it does well to live out the Churchill maxim that the length of the report was insurance against it ever being read.

Additionally it reads as if the author of the summary is summarising someone else’s work – which is exactly what has happened here.

The reason why we have included it in our Report of the Week – normally the residence of beautifully written tomes – is to demonstrate that even the most well resourced organisations cant do investigations well when there is confusion as to scope and responsibilities.

We will review the full Garcia report when / if it is ever released.

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