Just when you thought FIFA had reached the height of delusion, the farcical nature of this organisation came to the fore once again.
Last week, FIFA gave the go-ahead to the head of its ethics committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert, to publish a 42-page summary of investigator Michael Garcia's report into corruption inside the organisation. The report concluded that Russia and Qatar had done nothing wrong while pursuing their successful bids to host the World Cup.
And that was that: or so it seemed. In an astonishing development, Mr Garcia just hours later released a statement complaining that the summary of his 430-page dossier contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts”. In as many words, it would seem that FIFA had attempted to corrupt their own report by concealing potentially damning evidence - a calamitous own goal, if you like.
The report criticised England's bid for “inappropriate” behaviour, because of a $35,000 sponsorship of a Caribbean Football Union gala dinner. Qatar were cleared of any wrongdoing - despite a $1.8m sponsorship of the CAF Congress in Angola shortly before the 2010 vote.
And Russia? Well, they too were cleared. They even claimed all evidence of their bidding process was on computers they had rented. When FIFA's investigators came-a-knocking, they claimed the computers had been “destroyed”. How convenient. Nothing to see here though, apparently.
Key players in the Qatar World Cup bid controversy
Key players in the Qatar World Cup bid controversy
1/5 Mohammed bin Hammam
The Qatari was the Asian Football Confederation president at the time of the 2010 vote. The Sunday Times alleged that documents showed he made payments to officials as part of a campaign to win support for the 2022 World Cup bid. He insisted he had no “official or unofficial” role with the bid. Fifa imposed a second life ban on him in December 2012, after his decision to quit all his football roles. This came after the Fifa ethics committee investigation found him guilty of “repeated violations” of the ethics code on conflicts of interest, while he was AFC president and while a member of the Fifa Exco between 2008-2011.
2/5 Jack Warner
The Trinidad & Tobago politician was forced to resign as a Fifa vice-president in 2011, after he and Bin Hammam were alleged to have paid bribes of £600,000 to Caribbean associations. He is also alleged to have helped Bin Hammam bribe Caribbean officials in return for support in his aim to oust Sepp Blatter.
3/5 Sepp Blatter
The long-standing Fifa president oversaw the bidding process to award Qatar the World Cup. Has since admitted awarding Qatar the cup was “a mistake”. He set up an executive committee task force to look into the World Cup in Qatar being moved to the winter because of the extreme summer temperature.
4/5 Lord Triesman
Former FA chairman. Alleged that, in exchange for voting for England to host the World Cup, Warner asked for money to build an education centre in Trinidad and to buy World Cup television rights for Haiti, and that Paraguay’s Nicolas Leoz asked for an honorary knighthood in exchange for their votes.
5/5 Michael Garcia
Former New York district attorney Michael Garcia was named Fifa’s chief independent ethics investigator. He spent a year investigating the organisation, and delivered a 350-page report on the 2018 and 2022 bidding processes in September. Called for greater transparency and culture change in Fifa.
So we should be able to see this report, right? A report which allows us to see into who was corrupt, where and when? Nope. FIFA said it would “breach its constitution” and the laws of Switzerland to publish Garcia's full report, suggesting that we should otherwise trust its summary as the full truth. You just wonder how much damage this report could do to the organisation which would make it so determined not to publish it.
Another twist in the tale arose on Tuesday. In an apparent attempt to relieve FIFA of any suggested wrongdoing, Eckert on Tuesday gave permission to the Attorney General of Switzerland to launch a criminal investigation into the unnamed figures guilty of corruption in the report. A seemingly clever plan, given that these people could well be former ExCo executives who FIFA would now like to see criminally pursued.
It's actions like these which convince us that FIFA is hiding something, and we need a democratic governing body which has football as it's central interest - not one which appears willing to sacrifice the credibility of football in exchange for a few extra million in the bank.
Nations have realised they can manage without FIFA, but FIFA cannot manage without the nations. Without nations, there are no sponsors. And without sponsors, there is no revenue. Knowing this, the various football bodies must unite together and rise against the way Blatter and co are tarnishing the reputation of the so-called “beautiful game”. But how?
As far as I'm concerned, there's two options. Firstly, with the backing of the 54 member associations of UEFA, England pledge to boycott the World Cups in Russia and Qatar. This was proposed by former FA chairman David Bernstein, a long-time critic of Blatter's leadership.
If there was enough backing from the bigger countries - Spain, Germany, France and Holland - the smaller ones would soon follow. Sure, it might leave the associations out of pocket, but the threat of a boycott is too great for FIFA to risk happening; losing billions in advertising revenue would ultimately limit its influence. They would eventually back down.
And then the audacious second option. A breakaway organisation, with a name like the World Football Alliance Association, is formed. There are enough central figures who are opposed to FIFA who could get this off the ground, so why not? The obvious answer is money. The amount of funding the FA and its allies would lose through loss of sponsorship would be crippling.
For now, the first option remains our only hope of real change. But the likeliness of this happening? Extremely unlikely. And sadly, this is the situation football finds itself in. Until a group of organisations, not just one, is brave enough to take the decision to boycott FIFA and its competitions, it will continue to see off its opponents as football's overriding dictator.Reuse content