FIFA widens access to World Cup report, but keeps it in-house

Michael Garcia and Hans-Joachim Eckert reach compromise that will make no one happy.

FIFA’s ethics committee has promised to allow greater access to its report into the controversial bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, but it will not make the report public.

Michael Garcia, the US attorney who produced the report and Hans-Joachim Eckert, the German judge, who published a summary of the findings, met on Thursday in a bid to resolve their differences over the the latter’s synopsis.

In a joint statement they said they would make Garcia’s 420-page report available to Domenico Scala, the head of FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, who would then decide how much of the report should be made disclosed to the full FIFA executive committee (Exco).

Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, has insisted the report cannot be published in full for legal reasons but several dissenting members of the Exco including the CONCACAF president, Jeffrey Webb, the US Soccer Federation president, Sunil Gulati, and the UEFA president, Michel Platini, have called for full publication.

“The investigatory chamber has already opened a number of formal cases against individuals as a result of that inquiry,” said Garcia and Eckert in a joint statement. “Neither the recent referral of the reports to the Swiss Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office nor the request to the chairman of the FIFA audit and compliance committee will interfere with those ongoing proceedings.

“Both chairmen stressed the vital role of the FIFA ethics committee in ensuring the highest standards of ethics and governance at FIFA. Irrespective of the independence of the two chambers, the two chairmen regard good communication as key to fulfilling that role.”

Eckert effectively cleared Russia and Qatar of serious wrongdoing and praised FIFA’s “robust” process. Garcia was unhappy with Eckert’s summary of his report, saying it contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts”.

The latest compromise reached by the pair will not help full disclosure and given that the final judgement now lies with FIFA Exco members – some of whom may even be implicated in the report – it seems highly unlikely that it will silence the calls for greater transparency.

In short, it is difficult to know what the latest pronouncements are intended to achieve. Other than convey the sense that a rudderless FIFA is sinking under the weight of the ongoing and seemingly endless saga.