Ethics investigator Garcia resigns after slamming FIFA independence and leadership

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FIFA independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia has resigned in protest of the handling of his report into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as turmoil within football’s world governing body deepens.

This follows the former United States attorney’s appeal into German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert’s summary of his 430-page investigative dossier, which effectively cleared 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing, being rejected yesterday.

Garcia claimed this 42-page summary was a false representation of his full report, which will not be made public.

“It now appears that, at least for the foreseeable future, the Eckert Decision will stand as the final word on the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process,” said Garcia.

“While the Appeal Committee’s decision notes that further appeal may be taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, I have concluded that such a course of action would not be practicable in this case.”

Garcia said he had lost confidence in the independence of Ethics Committee colleague Eckert and highlighted a “lack of leadership” at the highest levels of FIFA.

He also questioned whether the body could ever truly change after years of scandals and criticism.

“[The] Eckert Decision made me lose confidence in the independence of the Adjudicatory Chamber, [but] it is the lack of leadership on these issues within FIFA that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end,” Garcia said.

“No independent Governance Committee, investigator, or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organization.”

Garcia also claimed the FIFA Executive Committee, led by President Sepp Blatter, had tried to have disciplinary proceedings opened against him in September when he released details of watches given to officials during this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, before the attempt was rejected by the chairman of the world governing body’s Disciplinary Panel.

Since the rejection of his appeal yesterday, many had expected Garcia to step down, but his departure is nevertheless a further blow to FIFA’s already stricken reputation after a year dominated by allegations into alleged corruption, particularly by Qatari officials during their successful bid.

Garcia was appointed in July 2012 in what was welcomed at the time as an indication of FIFA’s willingness to reform and tackle deep-rooted problems.

But, despite admitting that for the first two years he felt the Committee was making “real progress in advancing ethics enforcement”, Garcia added in his statement that in recent months, this had changed.

This was epitomised by Eckert’s summary, which declared the investigation should be closed because any corrupt and rule-breaking acts were of limited scope and had no impact on the result of both the 2018 and 2022 contests.

“The issues raised by Mr. Eckert’s selection and omission of material from the Report, and his additional comments, went far beyond the initial transparency concerns,” said Garcia.

“As my public statement at the time explained, the Eckert Decision contained ‘numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of facts and conclusions.’”

“Accordingly, I appealed. A brief I filed with the FIFA Appeal Committee on November 24, 2014, outlined the Eckert Decision’s most serious failings.”

“Among other points, the brief explained why, when viewed in the context of the Report it purported to summarize, no principled approach could justify the Eckert Decision’s edits, omissions, and additions.”

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he was “surprised” by Garcia’s decion.

But Jerome Champagne, who is set to challenge Blatter for the Presidency of FIFA next year, called Garcia’s resignation “a step backwards”.

He added: “When will the facts be known fully, transparently and above all without suspicion?”

“When will we be able to start rebuilding FIFA’s image?”

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, insidethegames.