“What do you expect from a pig but a grunt?” ask the Irish. And a grunt is just about what we have got from the risible Hans Joachim Eckert, chief of what is laughingly known as FIFA’s ethics body. Followed by what you might call a squeal from the American lawyer Michael Garcia whose committee had spent £5 million largely wasted in an investigation into the Qatar and Russia World Cup bids which was vitiated from the very start.
Garcia has protested vehemently that Eckert’s summary has distorted and impaired his won report which is quite clearly the case. But how much was his report going to be worth at any time?
He was obliged by FIFA to complete it before the beginning of the World Cup; which meant that it could contain none of the devastating information revealed afterwards in the Sunday Times. Culled from literally millions of emails and showing beyond any possible doubt that Qatar had bought the 2022 World Cup by dint of colossal bribes to members of the voting FIFA executive committee, administered by Mohammed Bin Hammam – for years a salient member of the Qatari football federation, though now successfully disowned, however flimsily, by the Qatar federation, since technically and legally he had ceased to hold any official position with the Qatari at the time the bribe was paid. Nor had Garcia’s committee any powers to compel him to appear before them. A circumstance with which Eckert seems wholly at ease.
All too significantly, for all his current protests and apparent outrage, Garcia failed to speak to Clare Kenny Tipton, international strategy adviser to the ill-fated England 2018 World Cup bid, who has declared that Bin Hammam approached her to ask if she would see whether England would guarantee European votes for the tournament in 2018. Tipton wrote to Garcia in vain. Another member of the England bid pertinently remarked, “It makes you wonder who he did speak to.”
In a well ordered world – and when has FIFA ever been that since the appalling Joao Havelange deviously unseated Stanley Rous as president in 1974 – Garcia, once the Sunday Times devastating revelations had appeared – would have insisted that his own limited investigation be re-opened. Now he can protest and declaim as long as he likes, but even if Eckert is persuaded to release the whole of his report, which he insists convincingly has been muted and distorted, it would barely be half of the story.
Meanwhile, with regard to the English 2018 bid, he and Eckert have strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel, rebuking the England bid for allegedly transgressing the regulations. This with no sense of absurdity and irrelevance even if in strictly legal terms they happen to be right; which I believe they are, for what it is worth.
The chief charge against the ineffectual bid leader Andy Anson and his confused committee is that they were naïve and ignorant enough to court that appalling rascal Jack Warner, head of CONCACAF and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation, a man with a record as long as your arm.
Exposed in Andrew Jennings’ book FOUL!. There over many pages could be read the repugnant chapter and verse of Warner’s relations with FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter, correspondence which showed that broadly speaking Warner, with the CONCACAF votes at his disposal, could get exactly concessions he wanted from Blatter, whose communications were at times almost affectionate. Involved, among other dubious enterprises, in a major World Cup ticket scam, Warner was able to slither out of any and every vicissitude.
Not only did Anson seem blind to such realities – not only did he ludicrously attack BBC’s Panorama programme for publicizing dirty work at FIFA for the affect it might have on England’s bid which garnered all of 2 votes, one of them England’s own! – he and his committee managed to enlist a hapless Prince William – now said to be infuriated – and the British Prime Minister David Cameron to dance attendance on Warner in both London and Zurich. After which Warner, having taken them for a protracted ride, didn’t even give England his vote.
A leading German representative has strongly and cogently suggested that UEFA could now pull out of FIFA, though given UEFA president Michel Platini’s inexplicable support for Qatar – even to the extent of backing a winter tournament – you wonder how far this could be implemented.
And what of Russia? How wonderfully convenient that their relevant emails have all somehow or other been destroyed. So a country is riddled with racism is still in line to stage the 2018 World Cup. But then please reflect that for 24 years a scoundrel such as Havelange was voted back time and again into the FIFA presidency.
“For evil to triumph,” wrote the 18th century English philosopher Edmund Burke, “it is enough for good men to do nothing.”