How do you recover transparency when all about you are crying "foul"? For FIFA, the answer is to commission an independent legal report, and then to withhold it. A top German football official is by no means impressed.
The president of the German Football League (DFL), Reinhard Rauball, told Kicker on Saturday that world governing body FIFA must release the full investigative report into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, to be held in Russia and Qatar.
FIFA released a shorter, 42-page report by German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, the chairman of the ethic committee's adjudicatory chamber, on Thursday. At the time, Eckert declared that the "assessment of the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process is therefore closed."
Within hours, however, prosecutor Michael Garcia - commissioned by FIFA as the independent investigator into the issue - lambasted the official version of his original investigation, saying it was based on "materially incomplete and erroneous" interpretations of his own findings. Garcia has lodged a complaint at FIFA's Appeal Committee asking for his report to be released in full.
Rauball moots UEFA split
Rauball, a prominent critic of the Qatar 2022 World Cup on both sporting and ethical grounds, said that FIFA's purported attempts to recover transparency on the issue had so far failed.
As the Bundesliga's champion, Rauball is particularly concerned by the scheduling problems for Qatar
"This outcome is shaking the very foundations of FIFA in a way that I have not experienced before," Rauball told Kicker. "If this crisis is not resolved in a credible manner, one would have to start discussing the question of whether one is still in good hands with FIFA."
"One option that ought to be seriously considered is whether UEFA could break away from FIFA," Rauball said.
Rauball, who is also the president of Borussia Dortmund, called for Garcia's appeal paper to be released in full, so that the public could see "what was accused and how it was evaluated."
In charge of the DFL, which operates Germany's top two club football divisions, Rauball has repeatedly voiced concern about scheduling difficulties for a Qatar World Cup. The tournament is likely to take place in the northern hemisphere's winter, right in the middle of the European club seasons. German news agency DPA reported that its sources in the DFB German Football Association, responsible for the national team, were "absolutely not amused" by Rauball's rather radical comments. DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach did not publicly comment, however.
Eckert plays down Garcia dispute
Niersbach's predecessor at the DFB, Theo Zwanziger, a member of the FIFA executive committee, told the Bild newspaper on Saturday that he would also lobby for the release of Garcia's full report: "I will now proceed with this," Bild quoted Zwanziger as saying.
Hans-Joachim Eckert, meanwhile, sought to calm the waters surrounding him and Michael Garcia at the weekend, saying that they would meet soon to discuss their differences of interpretation. Eckert described the current situation as a "preliminary" or "intermediate result" ("Zwischenstand" in German) in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung paper, already something of a step back from his "case closed" comments from Thursday.
Allegations of corruption have long plagued the World Cup bidding process from 2010 that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar - also for losing bidders like England (shooting for 2018) and Australia (seeking the 2022 tournament). Besides these allegations, Russia's behavior in the Ukraine conflict and allegations of Qatar mistreating guest laborers working on World Cup-related projects have fuelled debate over the venues' suitability.
The searing heat in Qatar is another issue; FIFA has repeatedly suggested that the 2022 tournament would have to be rescheduled to ensure suitable conditions for players and fans.
In the US, broadcaster CNN reported on Saturday that the FBI would launch its own investigations into FIFA and the contentious December 2010 bidding process. The US lost out to Qatar in an 8-14 vote in its drive to host the 2022 World Cup.
Last month, UEFA President Michel Platini called on FIFA to release Garcia's full report, not a redacted version. Platini was considered a potential rival to FIFA President Sepp Blatter in a 2015 vote, but he confirmed this year that he would not seek the top job in world football. Unlike the last unopposed vote, Blatter has competition for the presidency from his erstwhile ally Jerome Champagne, but the Swiss official is considered a certainty for a fifth term.
msh/av (AP, dpa, Reuters, SID)