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FIFA Won't Reopen Bidding Process For 2018, 2022 World Cups


Russia and Qatar have the official go-ahead to hold the 2018 and 2022 World Cup soccer tournaments. The governing body of soccer, FIFA, held an investigation into whether there was, as alleged, corruption in the awarding of the World Cup to those two countries. Today, it gave them its stamp of approval. But the man who conducted the investigation is not happy with the summary of his work that was released today. Former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia says he will appeal today's FIFA decision. Joining me now is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Hi, Tom.


SIEGEL: And we'll get to Michael Garcia's concerns in a moment. But first, can you tell us what this summary says?

GOLDMAN: It's a 42-page report distilled from Michael Garcia's original, reported to be nearly 500 pages long. It examines the conduct of all the bidding countries involved in this unique two-for arrangement. The voting on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups happened at the same time. That's the first time that's happened. And the man who wrote the summary, Hans-Joachim Eckert, his title - chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of the FIFA ethics committee. He essentially exonerated all the countries, at least as far as the bidding process goes. And that includes the U.S., which bid on the 2022 tournament. Now, not every country was squeaky clean. Interestingly, England, which bid on the 2018 World Cup, came in for the harshest criticism in its dealings with the former FIFA executive. But Eckert, as he did with every other country, including the winners Russia and Qatar, concluded - and I'm quoting here - "the potentially problematic facts and circumstances were all in all not suited to compromise the integrity of the bidding process as a whole."

SIEGEL: Now, the most damning charges of corruption stemmed from reporting by the Sunday Times of London this past summer. One article headlined "Plot To Buy The World Cup" - this was about Qatar's bid for the 2022 tournament - and it alleged secret payments by the country's top soccer official. What did the summary say about that?

GOLDMAN: Eckert said the payment by Mohammed bin Hammam - that's the official you're talking about - those payments were not made to influence the bidding process for Qatar. But instead, Eckert said the evidence strongly suggests bin Hammam made payments to influence vote for his candidacy for FIFA president in 2011- that candidacy failed. Now, Eckert, the FIFA ethics committee chairman, acknowledges there might have been improper actions or misconduct by individuals that still could be investigated. But he said that wasn't the focus of this investigation. And the findings in this investigation, he said, were far from reaching any threshold that would require reopening the bidding process.

SIEGEL: Now, as I said, the man who conducted the investigation is not pleased it seems with the summary of his work. What does Michael Garcia say about that summary that was released today?

GOLDMAN: Well, in a statement, he said - and I'm quoting - "it contained numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the investigatory chamber's report." Now, Garcia's had problems with this process for a while. He didn't like the fact that FIFA wasn't going to release the entire report because of confidentiality concerns with witnesses. But Garcia and others said the full report could be released with names redacted. Also, he was hamstrung in what he could get. He didn't have subpoena power. And in the case of the Russian bid for the 2018 games, the Russians didn't release all the documents they had because the computers they used - Robert, way for it - were destroyed. Garcia says he'll appeal Eckert's summary. But given that FIFA says the summary has brought a degree of closure to the issue, chances of a successful appeal seem slim.

SIEGEL: Just to be clear here, Garcia conducted the investigation and wrote a report of a few hundred pages long. Eckert summarized his work, and Garcia disputes that summary as an honest reflection of what he wrote.

GOLDMAN: That's exactly right.

SIEGEL: Well, thank you, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.