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FIFA faces renewed calls to publish Garcia report

BERNE: FIFA faced growing pressure to publish the full report of an investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments on Friday amid uncertainty over where the tortuous process would head next.

FIFA was plunged into chaos on Thursday when its ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert said in a statement there were no grounds to reopen the controversial bidding process which led to Russia being given the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 finals.

But three hours later former U.S. prosecutor Michael Garcia, who led the investigation over an 18-month period, said Eckert’s 42-page statement had misrepresented his 430-page report and that he would take the case to the FIFA appeal committee.

FIFA confirmed on Friday it had received Garcia’s appeal and said it could not comment further. The FIFA disciplinary code states that if a case is rejected by the appeal committee, it can then be taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

FIFA and Qatar World Cup organizers have been fending off allegations of corruption ever since the Gulf state was awarded the 2022 tournament.

Qatar, which has repeatedly denied the allegations, has also been criticized over its treatment of migrant workers in the construction industry.

Eckert told Reuters in Munich that he was surprised by Garcia’s reaction.

“Usually you would first speak to each other internally if you don’t like something,” he said, adding that he had not been able to get in touch with Garcia.

“It could be a misunderstanding after all,” he suggested.

FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne led the calls for Garcia’s report to be published in full.

ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE

“The events that unfolded yesterday between 10am and 1pm were absolutely incredible,” he told Reuters. “I was in FIFA for 11 years and have never seen anything like that. It was, as they say in Hollywood, larger than life.

“The report should be published, with the necessary redactions. I can only regret that these two objectives have not been met, that these two goals have not been scored.”

Sylvia Schenk, for anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, agreed.

“FIFA needs to understand that a simple summary of an investigation will not draw a line under the allegations surrounding the awarding of the World Cups. Transparency International calls for the full report to be published immediately,” she said.

Mark Pieth, a former head of FIFA’s independent governance committee who recommended a number of reforms for soccer’s world governing body, said there were cultural differences between the two judges.

“You have to see that Eckert thinks like a German criminal court judge and Garcia, however, is dominated by American ways of doing things,” he told the Neuer Zuercher Zeitung.

“Eckert needs, for example, 80 percent certainty to determine a fact. For Garcia 50 percent is sufficient.

“For it to be credible, one would have to know the arguments of both sides so that a judgment can be possible. We now know only one side. I repeat: Garcia’s report should be published.”

Pieth added that FIFA had jumped the gun on Thursday when, almost immediately after publishing Eckert’s statement, it announced that “a degree of closure has been reached”, only for Garcia to hit out a few hours later.

“That’s the most stupid thing you can say at that moment,” said Pieth. “If the investigator is dissatisfied with the report, you have to wait and analyze, certainly not celebrate triumph.”-REUTERS

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