News 30 April 2015

FIFA & AFC reject call for new 2022 World Cup investigation

Both FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) rejected calls for a new investigation into the 2018/2022 World Cup Bidding Process after new corruption allegations emerged, despite a call from the Council of Europe to re-run the vote to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The allegations surfaced in a book published last week, ‘The Ugly Game’, written by the Sunday Times journalists behind the newspaper’s long-running investigation into Qatar’s successful bid. The book makes new allegations that there was an illegal vote-trading pact between Mohamed bin Hammam, a former FIFA Vice-President and President of the AFC, and Ángel María Villar Llona, who ran the Spanish-Portuguese bid. The AFC told the Sports Integrity Initiative that “any enquiry should be directed at FIFA as the organiser of the FIFA World Cup”.

Following the allegations, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a resolution recommending that FIFA re-hold the vote to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The procedure was ‘so fundamentally undermined by illegality’ that it should be re-run ‘using fairer procedures’, said PACE in a statement. PACE’s resolution was based on a report suggesting reforms to football governance prepared for the Council of Europe by UK Labour MP, Michael Connarty.

In January, FIFA issued an eight page response to the issues raised in Connarty’s report, expressing doubt about the reliability of the evidence presented by the Sunday Times. ‘You also refer to material presented to you by the British newspaper, the Sunday Times, as being “unequivocal pieces of evidence”’, read FIFA’s January response. ‘In this respect, as a general remark and irrespective of individual appraisals of the content of the statement of the Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber – which, indeed, may not be too the liking of every single reader – and proceedings of judicial bodies require evidence and data that go beyond mere suspicion, speculation, public perception, individual opinions and media reports.’

In a response to the PACE resolution, FIFA stressed that ‘Based on external legal opinion, however, the chairman of the FIFA Audit and Compliance Committee, Domenico Scala, concluded that there is no legal obligation for FIFA’s Executive Committee to revoke either or both of the decisions to award the hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups’. FIFA had already decided in December 2014 that no re-vote could take place.

However, a FIFA statement issued at the time quoting the legal experts appears to contradict this viewpoint, and suggests that a re-vote could take place if new evidence – such as that contained in ‘The Ugly Game’ – came to light. ‘On the basis of the evidence and conclusions in the report – it is clear that the necessary “causality”, which would result in an obligation for the members of the FIFA Executive Committee to revoke the decisions taken on 2 December 2010, is missing’, it reads. ‘The situation would have to be re-assessed should, in the course of any further inquiries and investigations into the relevant circumstances, any evidence emerge that, in particular, would provide the necessary “causality” for a revocation. At the current moment in time, and on the basis of the facts currently known, there is no obligation to revoke the FIFA Executive Committee’s decision on the award of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, nor an obligation to revoke the decision on the award of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.’

In its response to the PACE resolution, FIFA also re-iterated its pledge to publish the report ‘in the appropriate manner’ once its independent Ethics Committee has concluded cases against all involved. However, January’s response to Connarty’s report revealed that a full publication of the report is still unlikely. ‘Full publication of the report is at the very least problematic from a legal point of view as it would violate the personal rights of the people mentioned in the report both under the Code of Ethics (cf. Art. 36 – Confidentiality) as well as under relevant Swiss law’, it read. ‘FIFA’s Executive Committee, at its meetings on 18 and 19 December 2014, unanimously supported the recommendation expressed by the Chairman of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee, Domenico Scala, that the Chairmen of the Ethics Committee publish the report […] The Executive Committee also stressed that such publication must fully adhere to the provisions of the FIFA Code of Ethics, notably the obligation of confidentiality (Art. 36 of the FIFA Code of Ethics).’

The independent Ethics Committee was formed by FIFA in 2012, along with a new Code of Ethics, after FIFA in 2010 pledged to investigate allegations of corruption during the bidding process to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Article 36 of the Code of Ethics mandates that all investigations are conducted in complete confidentiality. It is this Code of Ethics that prevents FIFA from publishing the report of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee into the bidding process. The independent Ethics Committee is funded by FIFA.

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