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Volume 6 No. 215

International Football

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).

: 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).

At first glance, the latest allegations that a Qatari official "greased palms to help buy the 2022 World Cup for his Gulf nation make very depressing reading for anyone who loves the global game and its showcase tournament," according to John Leicester of the AP. The spotlight "now falls on two people:" FIFA President Sepp Blatter and FIFA prosecutor Michael Garcia. Blatter "should resist calls -- at least for now -- for Qatar to be stripped of the 2022 World Cup or for a revote to be held." Such a "momentous and unprecedented decision, which would be a huge affront to the tiny, but very rich nation in a volatile, complicated and strategic part of the world, cannot be taken lightly." Politicians and others so quick to suggest Qatar is no longer or perhaps never was a suitable and trustworthy World Cup host "should pause and take breath." They should "consider how public opinion in the Middle East might react if Qatar was shamed in the eyes of the world by being stripped of the tournament" (AP, 6/3).

CLINTON'S FUROR: In London, Watt, Newell & Bryant reported former U.S. President Bill Clinton "looked anything but happy as he strode into the Savoy Baur en Ville hotel in Zurich in December 2010." The receptionists "could tell he was irritated, but had no idea just how angry he was." After closing the door to his suite, "he reached for an ornament on a table and threw it at a wall mirror in a fit of rage, shattering the glass." Clinton could "not believe America’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup had been beaten by, of all places, Qatar." A source said, “Clinton was fuming. He felt humiliated and felt the decision did not make sense” (TELEGRAPH, 6/3).

WHAT MONEY CAN BUY: In Melbourne, Michael Warner reported Australian football chiefs were "well aware" votes could be bought to secure the 2022 World Cup. Sources close to Australia’s failed bid for the event "have revealed there was an understanding within the world game’s corridors of power that rigging votes was an option." A source said, “If you went looking for it you could find it. The world of FIFA is a pretty murky place.” But Australia "never considered playing dirty pool" and understood rival bidders Japan, South Korea and the U.S. "would also act within the rules." Nobody gave Qatar "a serious chance of hosting the event." The source added, "Once they got it ... we knew people had been got to. The actual outcome was ridiculous. It stank" (HERALD SUN, 6/3). In Sydney, Tom Smithies wrote "the good news is that the prospect of Qatar not hosting the 2022 World Cup has grown stronger in recent days." The "bad news, at least for those still hoping Australia will suddenly become the fall-back option, is the chances of that coming to pass are next to zero." On moral grounds, Australia "has no claim." The A$45M ($42M) of public money that funded the bid by Football Federation Australia Chair Frank Lowy "garnered precisely one vote." Australia came last in the first round of voting, behind bids that were "never considered realistic like South Korea and Japan." So if an alternative to Qatar had to be chosen from the existing bidding process, the U.S. "has an unanswerable case -- it came second behind Qatar, with eight votes in the final round" including that of Blatter (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 6/3).

Brazil’s failure to have an accredited laboratory ready in time for the FIFA World Cup "means a player who doped may be able to continue competing because the testing wouldn’t be done before his next game," according to Tariq Panja of BLOOMBERG. FIFA Medical Committee Chair Michel D’Hooghe said that the process of collecting the samples and sending them by plane to Switzerland "also substantially increases the costs for World Cup organizers." D'Hooghe: “Until now, we always had a chance before the next game. That means if a player fails the test, we suspend him. We will manage to do it before most games, but I’m not sure we will do it in all conditions.” FIFA "will test everyone on the 23-player rosters of the 32 competing teams before the tournament begins, and will choose two players from each side at random following every one of the tournament’s 64 games." There "will be close to 1,000 doping controls related to the World Cup, and they will be cross-referenced against players’ biological profile data FIFA has" (BLOOMBERG, 6/3).

When Football League clubs meet for their Annual General Meeting, "the issue of B teams will be top of the agenda," according to the BBC. An FA commission, including Chair Greg Dyke, "proposed a new tier with Premier League B teams." The proposal to introduce a league between League Two and the Conference "is an attempt to increase the number of home-grown players in the top flight." It "has already drawn strong criticism from several Football League clubs." The FA commission called for a ban on non-European Union players outside of the top flight, the development of "strategic loan partnerships" between clubs, as well as a reduction in players in Premier League squads who were not home-grown. Portsmouth CEO Mark Catlin said, "I do worry. The Football League is a democracy and you have to go with what the democracy wants but I will be arguing strongly against the introduction of B-teams into our league or cup structure. It's an extremely dangerous route to go down." Among other things that will be discussed at the AGM are the use of artificial "3G" pitches, "while the Football League will also present an alternative proposal to Dyke's plan to incorporate Premier League B teams in an expanded Johnstone's Paint Trophy to include a group stage" (BBC, 6/3).