Football

Qatar: Integrity of our bid vindicated

Fifa sees no reason to block Russia and Qatar World Cups based on Garcia Report

A much-awaited Fifa report on the race to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups makes no suggestion that Russia or Qatar should lose the right to stage the tournaments, despite detailing numerous attempts to influence voting officials.

The 430-page Garcia Report, released on Tuesday, had been under wraps since being completed by Fifa's then-ethics investigator Michael Garcia in November 2014.

Fifa chose to publish after the document was leaked to the German newspaper Bild.

Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 tournament in a single, secret vote in Zurich in December 2010.

After persistent allegations of illegitimate attempts to influence the 22 voting Fifa executive committee members, Garcia was asked to investigate.

In November 2014, his completed report was handed to the Fifa ethics judge at the time, Hans-Joachim Eckert, whose 42-page summary said there was not enough evidence to re-open the bidding process.

Nevertheless, the lack of transparency surrounding the bidding for two major global sporting showpieces prompted closer investigation of Fifa affairs that led to the indictment of a host of senior officials and the eventual resignation and banning of Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

On Russia, Garcia said that Vladimir Putin, then Russia's prime minister and now president, had actively supported his country's bid and had a significant presence, but that "there is no apparent violation of the Fifa rules of conduct in this regard".

"There is no evidence in this record to suggest that the Russia bid committee attempted to exert undue influence on any Fifa executive committee members in order to secure their votes," Garcia added.

On Qatar, Garcia wrote: "To the extent this report identifies conduct by Qatar 2022 that may not have met the standards set out in the Fifa code of ethics or the bid rules, culpability is mitigated by the fact that these issues were uncovered largely as a result of its cooperation."

The report said Blatter, who has denied any wrongdoing, bore "some responsibility for a flawed process that engendered deep public scepticism", although it also praised him for implementing reforms including those that made the report itself possible.

Qatar World Cup organisers said yesterday that the surprise publication of the Garcia Report "vindicated the integrity" of its successful bid to host the 2022 tournament.

In a statement, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy also questioned the timing of the publication, which comes as Qatar faces political isolation from many neighbouring countries.

"We believe that the extent of our cooperation with this investigation and the conclusions drawn represent a vindication of the integrity of our bid," read the statement.

"We will continue to dedicate ourselves toward delivering on the promises we made during our bid and hosting a historic first Fifa World Cup in the Middle East."

Although the long-awaited report from Garcia highlighted an array of potentially suspect financial dealings, there appeared to be no "smoking gun" which could end up denying Qatar the World Cup in five years' time.

His report referred to a payment of US$2 million ($2.6 million) allegedly sent by a consultant for Qatar, Sandro Rosell, to the 10-year-old daughter of a Fifa official.

The payment was described by an associate as the proceeds from a real estate deal. But Garcia concluded that no proof existed to link Qatar to the payment.

Rosell, an ex-Barcelona president, is currently in prison under investigation for money laundering related to the sale of the Brazilian national football team's television rights. 
- WIRE SERVICES

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