The credibility of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, took another severe hit on Wednesday when the organization’s chief ethics investigator resigned in protest over the smothering of his report about corruption in the much-criticized bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
In his resignation statement, Michael Garcia, a former US attorney for the Southern District of New York, strongly suggested that the scandal-plagued FIFA was incapable of reforming itself from within.
“No independent governance committee, investigator or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organization,” Garcia wrote.
A spokeswoman said Garcia was not immediately available for interviews.
In his statement, in an unnamed, but pointed reference to FIFA’s beleaguered president, Sepp Blatter, Garcia cited a “lack of leadership” within FIFA to become more transparent and ethical in its behavior.
Garcia also charged that Hans-Joachim Eckert, the chief judge of FIFA’s ethics committee, had misrepresented the findings of Garcia’s two-year investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Eckert’s limited and inaccurate summary of the 450-page report last month caused Garcia to “lose confidence in the independence” of Eckert, Garcia wrote.
“No principled approach” could justify Eckert’s “edits, omissions and additions,” Garcia wrote.
His resignation came a day after Garcia lost an appeal to rebut Eckert’s claim that any violations of rules by countries bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were “of very limited scope.”
The 2018 World Cup was awarded to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar after a bidding process rife with accusations of bribery and vote trading.
Garcia charged in his appeal that Eckert’s summary contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions.”
In his resignation statement, Garcia said that his report had uncovered “serious and wide-ranging issues” regarding the bidding and selection process for those two World Cups.
He had pushed for most of his report to be made public — or at least made available to members of FIFA’s executive committee.
“I am very disappointed that Mr Garcia felt he had no alternative but to resign,” US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement. “It’s certainly a step backward in the process of trying to bring positive change to FIFA.”
FIFA has said its bylaws prevented a full release of Garcia’s report. Its executive committee was scheduled to meet in Morocco yesterday, and could amend FIFA’s ethics code to make part of the report public. However, many doubt that sufficient votes are there to make such an alteration.
Garcia wrote on Wednesday that he found it impractical to take his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Associated Press reported that investigations would continue into five high-level soccer officials accused of wrongdoing during the bid process. They include Franz Beckenbauer, a former German star, and three members of FIFA’s executive committee.
Michel Platini, of France, the president of UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, called Garcia’s resignation “a new failure for FIFA.”
“FIFA’s ethics committee was created to increase the transparency of the organization — that’s what we wanted — but in the end it has just caused more confusion,” Platini said in a statement.
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