Michael Garcia’s report into the 2018-2022 World Cup bid scandal will be published – at least, in a legally-redacted version – after the executive committee of international governing body agreed today to change the ethics code rules.
American attorney Garcia resigned as ethics investigator earlier this week after running into one obstacle after another, most recently his failed appeal against a complaint about the summary of his report released last month by ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert.
Earlier this autumn FIFA president Sepp Blatter insisted that legal advice prevented publication of the 420-page report which Garcia had compiled after two years’ work at a cost of £6m.
However a proposal for ‘retrospective legislation’ by German exco member Theo Zwanziger created the opportunity to amend the regulations. This was approved, reportedly unanimously, clearing the way for the release of the report.
This should not be expected immediately. For one thing, the guarantees of confidentiality given by Garcia to the 75 witnesses mean that the public version will need to detailed initial legal scrutiny to remove identities or even strands of evidence which may point to a particular source.
Already two whistleblowers from World Cup bids – Australia’s Bonita Mersiades and Qatar’s Phaedra Almajid – have complained that their own identities have been revealed, in breach of confidentiality guarantees, in Eckert’s summary.
The possibility of charges being raised against current FIFA exco members Angel Villar (Spain), Worawi Makudi (Thailand) and Belgian medical chairman Michel D’Hooghe will need to be resolved before publication. It is not clear whether any charges would concern the bidding process or reluctance to assist in Gercia’s investigation – or both.
This means that even the restricted version of the report might not see the light of day until after FIFA Congress next May when Blatter is likely to be re-elected as president for a fifth term.