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Fifa World Cup investigator Garcia quits
From the Financial Times of Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:14:40 GMT
Michael J. Garcia, Chairman of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee (L) and Hans-Joachim Eckert, Chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee attend a news conference at the at the Home of FIFA in Zurich July 27, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer (SWITZERLAND - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) - RTR35DV8©Reuters

Fifa’s strategy to contain damaging World Cup bidding allegations was in shreds on Wednesday after the lawyer who investigated the claims resigned, accusing it of “lack of leadership” and questioning whether it was capable of changing its culture.

Former US attorney Michael Garcia, independent chairman of the investigatory chamber of Fifa’s ethics committee, quit two years after Fifa president Sepp Blatter appointed him as part of his personal crusade to reform the football governing body’s chronic governance.

Mr Garcia’s main task has been to probe widespread allegations of unethical behaviour in the award of the 2018 and 2022 world cups to Russia and Qatar.

But he has been at loggerheads with Fifa over its unwillingness to publish his report into those allegations, a decision that has been criticised not just by Mr Garcia but some Fifa executive committee members.

Fifa said there were legal reasons preventing publication of a report that together with the findings of his deputy totals 430 pages.

Instead, the report was distilled into a 42-page summary by Hans-Joachim Eckert, who chairs the adjudicatory chamber of Fifa’s ethics committee.

Mr Eckert concluded that the allegations were of “very limited scope” and that there was no reason to re-run the controversial election of Russia and Qatar four years ago by Fifa’s executive committee.

Relations between Mr Garcia and Fifa worsened when he accused Mr Eckert of “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions”, and formally complained to Fifa’s appeals committee.

But on Tuesday, the committee concluded that the Eckert summary could not be appealed, and that therefore the Garcia complaint was “not admissible’, a ruling that has led Mr Garcia to end his Fifa role.

Mr Garcia issued a long emailed statement from his New York office saying the committee had “declined to address” points he raised in his appeal.

These included his assertion that “no principled approach could justify the Eckert Decision’s edits, omissions and additions”.

The appeal was rejected “on procedural grounds”, Mr Garcia said, a decision with which he disagreed.

“It now appears that, at least for the foreseeable future, the Eckert Decision will stand as the final word on the 2018/2022 Fifa World Cup bidding process,” said Mr Garcia.

Although he could have taken the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Mr Garcia concluded that “such a course of action would not be practicable in this case”.

He added: “No independent governance committee, investigator, or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organisation.

“And while the … Eckert Decision made me lose confidence in the independence of the adjudicatory chamber, it is the lack of leadership on these issues within Fifa that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end.”

Fifa desperately wants to move on from the bidding allegations and confront the troublesome issue of what time of year to stage the 2022 world cup, given concerns about playing the tournament in the Qatari summer.

Its executive committee begins a two-day meeting in Morocco, when it will consider a report by Domenico Scala, chairman of Fifa’s audit and compliance committee, on how much of the Garcia report can be seen by its members.

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