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FIFA investigator attacks report clearing Qatar and FIFA of corruption as 'erroneous'

Michael Garcia will contact FIFA's appeal committee after he criticised a report clearing Qatar of corruption claims
A Qatari official stands next to the World Cup trophy in Doha as the prize was taken on a global tour (AFP)

The man who investigated corruption in FIFA has questioned the findings of a report released on Thursday, which cleared Qatar of corruption charges and ended by praising the world governing body of football.

The BBC reported Michael Garcia, an American lawyer, as having said the report "contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions," casting doubt on the work of Hans-Joachim Eckert, a German judge who wrote the report.

Garcia's statement came just four hours after the report was published, which looked into the bidding process that saw Russia awarded the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 tournament. He will now reportedly contact FIFA's appeal committee.

Although the report released on Thursday said unnamed Qatari officials had engaged in "potentially problematic conduct", it concluded the actions were “all in all not suited to compromise the integrity of the FIFA World Cup 2018/2022 bidding process as a whole".

The report praised Doha for “full and valuable cooperation in establishing the relevant facts and circumstances” in relation to their successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

It said a shamed former Qatari official did not influence the bidding process. Mohammed bin Hammam, former president of the Asian Football Confederation, was banned from FIFA for life in 2011 after making “several improper payments” to football officials.

“The FIFA Ethics Committee does not support the conclusion that the purpose of these payments was to promote the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup bid. Rather, the evidence before the Investigatory Chamber strongly suggests that Mr. Bin Hammam paid CAF officials to influence their votes in the June 2011 election for FIFA President where he was a candidate,” the report said.

Garcia interviewed officials from all the countries involved in the 2018 and 2022 bidding processes, as well as related FIFA officials.

Russia, who won the right to host the World Cup in 2018, were criticised for failing to cooperate with Garcia, but ultimately, the country was cleared of corruption too. The report did note, however, its bid team made “only a limited amount of documents available for review”.

England, who were praised for their cooperation, were criticised for “jeopardising the integrity of the bidding process” in their engagements with FIFA executive members while attempting to win the right to host the 2018 tournament.

Repeated denials of corruption accusations

In 2010, Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, beating bids from the US, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

Since then, Doha has been plagued by allegations of corruption, including being accused of “buying” the World Cup by paying FIFA officials £3mn, in Sunday Times report from earlier this year.

Qatari officials have repeatedly denied corruption accusations.

The gas-rich Gulf state has also been consistently chastised for poor labour practices and numerous reports have accused Doha of “slavery” in their treatment of migrant workers.

Hundreds of Nepalese workers have died while working on construction projects in Qatar, as revealed by The Guardian, who also recently reported North Koreans working as “state-sponsored slaves” in Doha.

Human rights activists have warned Doha that the World Cup will leave a lasting negative effect on the country’s image, if authorities do not move to improve labour rights.

“The reason you bid for the World Cup is to put yourself on the map,” Nicholas McGeehan, Bahrain, Qatar and UAE researcher at Human Rights Watch, told MEE on Wednesday. “But if steps aren’t taken urgently, its legacy will not be positive.”

“It will be a legacy of abuse of one of the most vulnerable groups in society.”

FIFA praises FIFA

Thursday’s FIFA report concluded by praising FIFA for the bidding process that awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, although urged reforms for decisions relating to the awarding of future tournaments.

“FIFA designed a bidding process for the FIFA World Cup 2018/2022 which was well-thought, robust and professional. However, as a result of the Report, there are areas in which FIFA can and must improve the bidding process for future FIFA World Cups," the report said.

The report said evaluation of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process is now closed, meaning there will be no revote.

Twitter users were swift to respond with cynicism to Thursday’s report, dismissing the self-regulatory approach of FIFA as flawed and criticising the organisation for a lack of transparency.