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SBD Global/June 4, 2014/International Football

FIFA Chief Investigator Michael Garcia Faces Tough Task Of Investigating World Cup Bids

Michael Garcia is preparing his findings on World Cup corruption.
FIFA Chief Investigator Michael Garcia "will have found looking into allegations of corruption surrounding the votes for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to be one of the most gruelling assignments" of his legal career, according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. Garcia announced that "his investigation would conclude on Monday." A report will follow in mid-July but it could be "another several weeks" before organizers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and 2018 tournament in Russia discover whether Garcia has "unearthed evidence" that would compel FIFA to "strip them of the events they spent so much effort acquiring." That would be "astonishing considering the limits on Garcia's ability to delve as deeply as he might have wanted into precisely what led 14 members" of FIFA's exec committee to vote for Qatar and 13 for Russia back in '10 (TELEGRAPH, 6/3).

RE-VOTE NOT SOLE OPTION
: REUTERS' Mike Collett reported FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne said that FIFA has "more options available than just organising a re-vote to decide new 2022 World Cup hosts if allegations are proved that Qatar's winning bid to stage the finals was corrupt." Champagne said that it "was far from a foregone conclusion that, if and when FIFA had to decide on a change, there would be a simple re-vote." Champagne: "It is too simplistic just to say there should be a re-vote. Would Qatar be allowed to re-submit a bid if these allegations are proved? Can you imagine that happening? I don't know. Is an athlete allowed to run again if he is guilty of doping?" (REUTERS, 6/3). The FINANCIAL TIMES wrote the "location for 2022 is not the only issue that needs rethinking." FIFA is a body that has been "mired in corruption allegations for so long -- and which has been so lame in mending its shoddy governance -- that it demands a complete overhaul." FIFA's responsibility in managing world football is "huge." But "far from being accountable to any outside body," FIFA acts like a "sovereign state." In '11, Blatter, "unable to ignore the spate of scandals, asked outside experts to make recommendations on better governance." One of "those experts said most of the proposals were rejected" (FT, 6/3).

FIFA BOARD A RISK: BLOOMBERG's Tariq Panja reported FIFA Audit & Compliance Committee Chair Domenico Scala said that the "biggest corruption risk" facing FIFA is its board. Scala: "The highest single risk at FIFA is the executive committee and its members. Which is why the reforms have all tried and have actually achieved the limitation of their decision-making powers by introducing several checks and balances. The single individual missing point now is the limitation on the terms of office." Since a 22-member exec board made the Dec. '10 choice of Qatar as 2022 host, FIFA has "changed the selection process, including taking away that power from the board and giving it to representatives of FIFA's 209 member associations around the world" (BLOOMBERG, 6/3).

FFA'S LOWY DEFENDS BID: In Sydney, Simon King reported Football Federation Australia Chair Frank Lowy and the FFA have been "left seething by allegations their 2022 World Cup bid was anything other than 'completely transparent and above board.'" Lowy, who "initiated and presented Australia's unsuccessful bid, slammed any suggestion of wrongdoing." Lowy: "We did it transparently and in close consultation with governments, aid agencies and not-for-profit organizations. The fact is that Australia ran a campaign it can be proud of" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 6/4).

PLATINI ADMITS TO MEETING: In London, Watt, Newell & Bryant reported UEFA President Michel Platini has "admitted holding a secret meeting" with "disgraced" former FIFA VP Mohamed Bin Hammam "shortly before voting for Qatar." A source "close to" Platini said that he had "met the Qatar football official for breakfast in a hotel in Switzerland, just a few days before the controversial decision to hand the 2022 World Cup to Qatar." The source said that Bin Hammam asked Platini to "stand against" FIFA President Sepp Blatter in the 2011 FIFA presidency, but Platini refused. The source added that the two men "had met 30 to 50 times, as both sat on the decision-making committee" for FIFA (TELEGRAPH, 6/3).

EX-MILAN PLAYER QUESTIONED: BLOOMBERG's Alex Duff reported former footballer George Weah said that he was "questioned as many as five times by a team investigating allegations of corruption in bidding to hold the World Cup." Weah said that Garcia's team asked him about a "2010 e-mail" published by the Sunday Times. According to a "redacted copy of the message," Weah sent his "Bank of America account number in Pembroke Pines, Florida, to the assistant of Bin Hammam," who was then on FIFA's exec committee. Weah, who has homes in Florida and his native Liberia, said that he "first met Bin Hammam in Paris" in '98. Weah said that Bin Hammam was a "father figure" to him and that "any interaction with him had been personal and not related to Qatar's bid" (BLOOMBERG, 6/2).
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