Michael Garcia confronts a double dilemma as FIFA’s brand new chief investigator and prosecutor: firstly, how to build his own credibility in a milieu desperately short of that quality and, secondly, where to start delving amid a choice of so many murky depths.
His initial interviews suggest the obvious targets: the ISL scandal – because that ensnared so many FIFA high flyers in both mind and bank account; one small infection flared into a plague of corruption.
From the wrong turning of ISL and all those illicit payments it was a short easy step to playing persuasive political games with television rights and bidding battles.
Hence from ISL it is a natural progression – as Garcia appears to have identified – to study World Cup bidding. This means not only 2018/2022 but the earlier vote which created that miasma . . . the vote which assigned the 2006 World Cup to Germany and not South Africa.
One of the modern media wonders of the World Cup is that the British press – so tub-thumpingly self-righteous over 2018 and 2022 – has ignored the murky waters surrounding 2006 on which it should have focused both earlier and more equably.
But back then the UK media was on the other side of the fence.
Let’s go back to different times, the immediate aftermath of the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Joao Havelange was all-powerful as FIFA president and Sepp Blatter, as general secretary/chief executive, ran his own show from his power base in the ‘old’ FIFA House in Zurich.
This was a self-confident FIFA, expanding at high speed courtesy of the undreamed-of millions being generated from TV and sponsor exclusivity contracts . . . and being generated for FIFA by commercial partner ISL even though its creator and guiding light, Adidas heir Horst Dassler, had died a year earlier (prompting the family and business wars which ultimately wrecked ISL itself).
The 1994 World Cup was already set for the United States which meant, under the unwritten rules of the time, a return to Europe in 1998.
Two main contenders emerged: France and England. English football was only just emerging from the black depths of the hooligan era but solutions were being found and English clubs were being welcomed back into the European club competitions after a five-year absence following the Heysel disaster.
Seeking to capitalise on this upturn, the Football Association launched a campaign to host the 1998 World Cup. Subsequently German support, in FIFA and UEFA’s corridors of power, sparked the deal by which England conceded 1998 to France in exchange for landing Euro 96.
The 2002 World Cup went out of Europe (to Japan and South Korea) which meant 2006 reverting to Europe. England, not having hosted the finals since 1966 and having been ‘bought off’ 1998, bid again. So, this time, did Germany.
The German bid was supported by many of England’s own national newspapers. The reasons were many and varied. One was an impatience with much of the fumbling and bumbling within the FA and an innocent handshake between chairman Sir Bert Millichip and German federation president Egidius Braun was excoriated as evidence of double-dealing.
The DFB, supporters within UEFA including the then chief executive Gerd Aigner and the German media took happy PR advantage.
No-one looked at the German bid and its context. No-one looked at the connections and networks of some of the men working behind the scenes. No-one examined some convenient TV rights deals constructed far and wide. Until too late . . . and even then it was not by the British media but by a handful of German investigative magazines.
Franz Beckenbauer and Wolfgang Niersbach (respectively bid leader and communications boss) have denied any wrongdoing. But, intriguingly, Theo Zwanziger – who led the DFB from 2006 until earlier this year, has said that an investigation into any allegations would be perfectly proper.
Zwanziger’s comment was prompted by the discovery, from the now-released ISL documentation, that the marketing agency paid a certain ‘E16’ the sum of $250,000 on the day before FIFA’s executive voted on the 2006 host.
Controversially, Oceania president Charles Dempsey flew home before the vote, alleging death threats to his family. Dempsey had been due to vote for South Africa. In his absence, Germany won 12-11. Had he voted a 12-12 tie would have left a casting vote with Blatter – and Blatter would have voted for South Africa.
Just think, if South Africa had hosted the World Cup in 2006, Blatter would not have needed to introduce rotation to ensure it, which also had the effect of handing 2014 on a plate to Brazil. The World Cup would have been in Europe in 2010 (In Germany? In England?) and might then have gone who knows where in 2014?
Not to mention 2018 and 2022.
Garcia, hopefully, is a man with plenty of stamina. He will need it. This is personal. Not only is FIFA’s credibility at stake but so is his own.