Corruption central

American lawyer Michael Garcia (left), head of the investigatory arm of FIFA’s ethics committee, who spent 18 months investigating the controversial bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, has urged FIFA to publish his report in full.-AP American lawyer Michael Garcia (left), head of the investigatory arm of FIFA’s ethics committee, who spent 18 months investigating the controversial bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, has urged FIFA to publish his report in full.

FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar is blemished not only by the fact that the tiny Gulf state, as we’ve seen, is a football non-entity, but more seriously, hundreds of guest workers have died labouring on the new stadiums there, treated abominably, their passports withheld so they are unable to escape a kind of slavery. By Brian Glanville.

Just how shamelessly far you wonder are FIFA prepared to go in obfuscating, holding and concealing the obviously alarming results of American lawyer Michael Garcia’s report on Qatari and Russian World Cup corruption? Goodness knows we have waited long enough for Garcia to deliver and see a response, however maddeningly perverse to his six million pound report. Yet were we to be given the privilege of seeing it, it could only be a half baked affair at the best since as we well know, Blatter and FIFA rushed him into it at such unnecessary speed that it had to be presented before the start of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil; which meant inevitably before the Sunday Times dramatically and sensationally published the results of their acquiring and perusing millions of devastating emails. Emails which showed up the appalling corruption of executive FIFA members, which resulted in the fiasco of tiny Qatar — with a red hot summer climate and no proper football background — being awarded the World Cup for 2022.

This emails made it perfectly clear that the devious operator Bin Hammam had spent millions of dollars — though in fact substantially less than one might have expected — bargain buying, if you like, the votes Qatar needed to win the right to the 2022 World Cup. A decision blemished not only by the fact that Qatar as we’ve seen are football non-entities, but more seriously, the hundreds of guest workers who have died labouring on the new stadiums, treated abominably, their passports withheld so they are unable to escape a kind of slavery.

Needless to say Qatar’s establishment have ineptly denied all official contact with Bin Hammam, who is pretty rich considering that he was for many years one of the dominant figures of their football hierarchy.

With intransigent pomposity, the German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert — no, I’d had never previously heard of him either — chairman of the adjuratory committee of FIFA’s ethics committee, announced that no one but he and his number two, an obscure Australian called Alan Sullivan, would be permitted to read the massive report and the 500,000 pages of evidence that go with it.

A Swiss Parliamentarian had already said that such behaviour could result in FIFA losing its tax status if it will not reform, declaring, “They have been talking now for three years about ethics but don’t take any action.” There is also talk in England of the Serious Fraud Office being brought into action.

Meanwhile you wonder how FIFA could ever have convinced such a preposterous, arrogant and anti-democratic rule. Certainly I never heard of it before and given his apparent outrage, you wonder whether Garcia knew of it either. Though, Blatter presumably must have been happy enough not to see the report (another absurdity), in the knowledge that hardly anyone could see it either.

In a properly ordered football polity, the European body, UEFA, would be up in arms about such appalling transgressions, but alas, the President of UEFA is Michael Platini whose troubled reign has become abhorred for ineptitudes. Not that we could expect anything better from the Federation he represents, all but a few have over the years supported the ineffable Joao Havelange and now Sepp Blatter: all set for another four years in Presidential office, making it a fifth term. But then Havelange himself reigned from 1974-1998.

Platini, whatever his undoubted brilliance as a footballer, seems to slip from one embarrassing catastrophe to another. As we all know too well, he has ruined the secondary European club competition, alias the Europa Cup, a Thursday bore overpopulated by a host of minor remote clubs. Bloated too is the European championship which Platini has now absurdly enlarged to a 24 team monstrosity: just as Blatter has done to the World Cup. Moreover because he was slow to act he failed to make Turkey the overall host to the final which now must be dotted about all over Europe.

All this we know, but now there have been two further pieces of folly. First, a ludicrous attempt to threaten Franck Ribery — the French international winger, now at Bayern Munich — with sanctions if he maintains his intention to retire from international football. Platini claims that FIFA regulations states that if a player is picked and refuses to play for his country, he will be punished. If such a drastic regulation does exist then it is more honoured in the breach than in observance. Certainly I have never heard of it being applied to any player.

And look at those stars who have quit the international game in the past. As soon as the 1974 World Cup was over Gerd Muller, alias ‘Der Bomber’, who had scored the winning goal in the final, quit the international German team. Before the 1978 World Cup finals, those titans, Johan Cruyff of Holland and Franz Beckenbauer of Germany had both refused to play. And immediately after the 2014 World Cup, two veteran England players, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, said goodbye to the national team.

Then there is the question of watches. The Parmigiani watches, each worth GBP16,400, which were packed into gift bags of the members of FIFA’s executive committee, in Brazil at the World Cup finals. FIFA regulations clearly state that members may only receive gifts of minimal value. Several members of the committee duly returned their watches but not Platini, nor for that matter Chairman of the English Football Association, Greg Dyke. Both took their watches home with them. Dyke said he had no idea of its presence till he unpacked his bag and returned the watch, though a leading sports columnist has still called for his resignation. But Platini kept the watch and made a donation of its worth to charity. Did he pay French tax on it?

Meanwhile somewhat ominously, Garcia has said that so many countries infringed the rules of bidding for the two World Cups that Russia and Qatar could go unpunished. Then there has been dirty work at the crossroads seems beyond all doubt especially in the case of Qatar, surely a farcical choice. One hears calls for the British association to withdraw from FIFA in the hope that others would follow, but corruption runs so deep and wide that it’s hard to hope.