No end to FIFA muck

The persisting row over Qatar’s deeply suspected successful bid has so far overshadowed the case of Russia, who have acquired the 2018 World Cup in deeply dubious circumstances. By Brian Glanville.

What next in the sink of iniquity, that Augean Stables without a Hercules to clear it, that men call FIFA? The highly abbreviated and diluted version of the Michael Garcia report on World Cup bidding corruption, issued by the head of the so called FIFA Ethics body, Hans Joachim Eckert, isn’t even a bad joke. It has already evoked cries of outrage from Garcia himself who insists that his report in this abbreviated version is a travesty of what he wrote.

I am quite ready to believe that it isn’t a manifest and shameless whitewash of the grubby facts. But in the last analysis, Garcia’s own report is valueless in that it was completed — reportedly at the behest of FIFA — on the eve of the World Cup finals. Meaning, that it took no account of the imminent deadly ‘Sunday Times’ revelations, based on literally millions of emails of the infinite corruption, which has enabled tiny Qatar, roasting hot in the summer at 50 degrees centigrade, to be awarded the 2022 World Cup.

In retrospect, you feel that once those deeply embarrassing facts had emerged, Garcia should have insisted that he be given more time to enlarge and complete his report. Which in fact was devalued from the start that he would not force the principal villain of the piece, Mohamed bin Hammam, to give evidence in that for all his finagling, all his reported bribery of voting countries, he had officially resigned from any office in the Qatari football authority and was therefore not obliged to give evidence. A crucial damning fact, which was conveniently ignored in Garcia’s report, and by Eckert himself.

The persisting row over Qatar’s deeply suspected successful bid has so far overshadowed the case of Russia, who have acquired the 2018 World Cup in deeply dubious circumstances. Despite the fact that endemic racism in their football runs utterly counter to FIFA’s supposed campaign to “Kick out racism”. The Russians, however, have been smart enough to destroy all the email evidence log on their computers, which probably got them off the potential hook.

There is now actually talk of Eckert himself being impugned by two important women witnesses, whose names he exposed, despite firm promise of anonymity, in his truncated report, thus exposing them above all in the case of Phaedra Al-Majid to violent reprisals. Al-Majid was employed by the Qatari bid committee and revealed their malfeasance, before being forced under threat to retract her accusations. The other woman, Bonita Mersiades, who worked for the failed Australian bid, also had supplied evidence of attempted corruption. “To compound this situation,” the two women have complained, “Judge Eckert used his summary report to question our credibility.” So now, ironically, it will be the ineffable Eckert himself who will be under scrutiny.

Garcia himself also failed to speak to Clare Kenny Tipton, the strategy adviser to the sadly inept English bid for the 2018 competition. She has said that she was approached by Bin Hammam to ask if she could raise European votes in favour of the Qatar bid.

By a ludicrous irony, it is the English Football Association and its bid for the 2018 World Cup whom Garcia and Eckert find guilty. Eliciting that old Biblical derision of those who “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel”. As an Englishman, I am more than ready to concede that the bid team blatantly and mindlessly — not to mention in the last resort uselessly — infringed FIFA bidding rules with their insensate courting of that irredeemable rascal Jack Warner, former chief of CONCACAF and of football in Trinidad.

What possessed the inadequate Andy Anson, confused leader for some arcane reason of the English bid, to pursue Warner is beyond understanding. All the evidence of Warner’s greed, corruption and devious activities was there to be seen. Not least in Andrew Jenning’s explosive book ‘Foul’, in which you can read abundant chapter and verse on Warner’s dark dealings, above all his cosy even — from Blatter’s side — almost affectionate relationship with the ineffable FIFA President. These published exchanges to how, with horrid clarity, Warner could get pretty well anything he likes out of Blatter, who plainly coveted the CONCACAF votes, which Warner — now cast into belated outer darkness by FIFA for trying to buy Caribbean votes — demanded. Not even a major World Cup ticket scam operated by Warner and his son made any difference to that.

In the event, the English won just two votes, neither of which of course was the one promised and so foolishly pursued from Warner. And one of the two coming from the Football Association itself! Anson also made a fool of himself during the run up to the World Cup voting when he attacked the ‘BBC Panorama’ programme for an investigation into FIFA corruption, for fear that it would badly affect the English bid!

So alas it was that even Prince William and the English Prime Minister David Cameroon danced attendance of Warner, both in London and later before voting in Zurich. I understand William is furious at the way he was misled and used. As for Cameroon, what are his supposed advisers for?

Anson’s misguided bid saw to it that England played an international match away to Trinidad, that a hugely expensive dinner was arranged there with Warner the principal guest. But by comparison with the now exonerated Bin Hammam, Warner is a tiny peripheral figure.

The ‘Sunday Times’ investigation has even unearthed messages from two female executives who rejoiced in what they saw as Bin Hammam’s triumph. Michelle Chai, assistant general secretary of the Asian Football Confederation of which Hammam was the President, wrote, “People can say what they want about the bid but he did it… I think he is proud too.” And later, “When you think about it, this must be his biggest legacy. I mean dreams of millions and millions of people.”

To which one Jenny Be, a close friend of Hammam, replied, “Let him enjoy his moments; he is a hero.” There is abundant chapter and verse of the huge payment made by Hammam to executive committee members, who voted the Cup to Qatar. But what now? The President of the German League has demanded that UEFA should consider leaving FIFA. But the UEFA President is Michel Platini, who voted for Qatar!