Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

The FIFA headquarters in Zurich. (CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS)
The FIFA headquarters in Zurich. (CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS)

A World Cup fiasco: FIFA gets a red card Add to ...

Mr. Garcia – who investigated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and al-Qaeda’s deadly 1998 attacks on three U.S . African embassies – is currently probing the explosive allegations that bribery handed the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. He met with Qatari bid officials in Oman this week.

Mr. Klotz describes the two appointees as “tough-as-nails,” and praises FIFA for taking the steps to investigate the allegations. He says he believes the world should wait for Mr. Garcia to report and Mr. Erckert to issue a ruling before clamouring for a re-vote on Qatar.

“It’s really a litmus test almost for FIFA, moving forward,” he said.

FIFA ‘impunity’

But even Mr. Garcia’s investigation has attracted doubts. Back in March, reports emerged that at a meeting of FIFA’s powerful executive committee, some members wanted to fire him or block his investigation. And this week, with his probe due to be completed in a few days and a final report to be submitted to Mr. Eckert within six weeks, The Guardian reported that Mr. Garcia is not expected to review the Sunday Times’s massive e-mail and document cache.

This, and the experiences that led her to quit the FIFA governance committee panel last year, have made Ms. Wrage a skeptic: “It has always been a tactic of FIFA to try to ride these scandals out. The reason I don’t think it really matters what that report says in the end, is that it has been widely reported ... that Garcia is not going to look at these e-mails.”

She quit last year, she said, after it became clear to her that FIFA was going to “cherry pick” from the committee’s recommendations. While Prof. Pieth’s report says she left due to “time constraints,” she says the full reason is that the fighting necessary to bring about real change at FIFA would simply take more time than she had.

At one point during her tenure, a “senior FIFA executive,” whom she would not identify, told her that her committee needed to stop suggesting women for appointments to various FIFA posts: “I looked up and I said, ‘Did you really just say that to me?’ ... I thought, that just shows me more than anything else what complete impunity they think they operate with.”

FIFA has avoided some of the panel’s straightforward corporate governance recommendations. Mr. Blatter’s salary, for example, remains a secret. FIFA has balked at including independent directors on its powerful 25-member executive committee, a standard corporate governance practice in the private sector. FIFA also watered down a recommendation for “integrity checks,” police background checks to weed out organized crime links and screening procedures to ensure FIFA executives were not linked to companies that do business with the soccer body. FIFA’s checks will instead be conducted by its regional soccer confederations, not by its head office.

It has also delayed a vote on age and term limits for executive committee members. However, a proposal to bring in age and term limits is on the agenda for delegates from those member associations when FIFA’s congress meets on Wednesday in a Sao Paulo hotel, the day before Brazil takes the pitch against Croatia for the World Cup’s opening match.

Still, with the 78-year-old Mr. Blatter recently reversing previous suggestions that he would not stand for another term as president, Ms. Wrage said even this simple proposal could be rendered impotent with grandfathering clauses for existing members, for example.

“I am confident whatever the decision, Mr. Blatter’s long-term goal will be the result,” she said, recounting that he once told her matter-of-factly that in his powerful post at the top of FIFA, he can hop on a plane to any country in the world and be received by the head to state when he lands.

The man at the centre of the most recent bribery storm, Doha-born Mohamed bin Hammam, 65, has a long history as a senior power figure on FIFA’s executive. In 2011, he initially challenged Mr. Blatter for the presidency – even promising to clean up corruption – but withdrew just before he was suspended for allegedly offering $1-million in bribes to Caribbean soccer officials to vote for him. Banned for life in 2012, his penalty was later reversed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for insufficient evidence. He later resigned after a FIFA probe found he had violated conflict-of-interest rules. Now, he faces allegations that he paid $5-million in cash or lavish gifts to senior FIFA officials in order to secure the World Cup for Qatar.

Single page

Follow on Twitter: @jeffreybgray

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories