FOOTBALL’S world governing body Fifa has suffered another blow to its reputation after the lawyer tasked with investigating corruption claims resigned from the role in protest.
Michael Garcia quit his position as Fifa’s chief ethics investigator yesterday because, he said, his inquiry into allegations surrounding the bidding processes to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups had been misrepresented by another high-ranking official, chief ethics adjudicator Hans-Joachim Eckert.
Former New York district attorney Garcia, whose decision came a day after Fifa deemed inadmissible his complaint against Eckert’s summary of his extensive investigation, argued that “no principled approach could justify” Fifa’s methodology and that the embattled organisation, headed by president Sepp Blatter, lacked leadership on ethical matters.
“A brief I filed with the Fifa appeal committee outlined the Eckert Decision’s most serious failings. Among other points, the brief explained why, when viewed in the context of the report it purported to summarise, no principled approach could justify the Eckert Decision’s edits, omissions, and additions,” he said in a statement.
“No independent governance committee, investigator, or arbitration panel can change the culture of an organisation. And while the Eckert decision made me lose confidence in the independence of the adjudicatory chamber, it is the lack of leadership on these issues within Fifa that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end.”
Blatter said he was “just surprised” by Garcia’s resignation and would discuss it with other leading Fifa officials at a meeting today in Morocco, where the Club World Cup is currently being held. Michel Platini, president of European governing body Uefa, said: “We wanted transparency but this is a new failure for Fifa.”
Garcia was hired by Fifa in 2012 and tasked with investigating widespread claims of improper payments surrounding the 2018 and 2022 host votes, which were won by Russia and Qatar respectively. Both have strongly denied any wrongdoing, and were absolved by Eckert’s summary.
“For the first two years after my July 2012 appointment as independent chairman of the FIfa ethics committee’s investigatory chamber, I felt that the Ethics Committee was making real progress in advancing ethics enforcement at Fifa,” Garcia added. “In recent months, that changed.”