Fifa fury: 'corrupt, complacent, incompetent monsters'
Media rages at Fifa as Garcia washes hands of corruption report and FBI steps up investigation
Any hopes Fifa had that its investigation into allegations of corruption in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process would bring the curtain down on the saga have gone up in smoke after the British media launched an all-out assault on football's governing body in the wake of its "farcical" botched report.
Hans-Joachim Eckert's 42-page dossier, based on the findings of an 18-month investigation by American lawyer Michael Garcia, unearthed no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the successful candidates, Russia and Qatar, and instead criticised the FA for "improper" behaviour in its efforts to garner support for its failed 2018 bid.
Those findings prompted dark mutterings of a whitewash. And what happened next only provided ammunition for those taking aim at Fifa, as Garcia came forward to brand the report "erroneous and incomplete".
Once again it is open season on Fifa.
What did the Fifa report say?
It said that in drumming up support for its 2018 World Cup campaign the English FA had "violated bidding rules", but claimed any breaches by Russia or Qatar had been of a "very limiting scope". It added: "In particular, the effects of these occurrences on the bidding process as a whole were far from reaching any threshold that would require returning to the bidding process, let alone reopening it."
In short it exonerated the winners of the vote, despite some "irregularities", for example a payment of $1.8m to the Confederation of African Football by Qatar. While the FA, one of the few organisations to co-operate fully with the investigation, was castigated, for example for funding a £35,000 gala dinner in Trinidad.
"Several appalling instances of apparent corruption, collusion and vote-buying are identified even in this summary," says David Conn in The Guardian. "Yet complacency, in the face of dreadful, apparently institutionalised graft, seeps from every paragraph of Eckert's statement."
What did Michael Garcia say?
Hours after the report was published, Garcia, the man who spent 18-months preparing the 430-page dossier on which Eckhart's findings were based, came forward in dramatic fashion to wash his hands of it. The report "contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of facts and conclusions", he declared.
According to the Daily Telegraph Garcia is "furious" and his intervention has "completely derailed" Fifa's efforts to close the matter by launching an appeal against the findings.
What happens now?
"Publish or be damned," says Henry Winter of the Telegraph. "For the game, for the world, for the sake of justice, Fifa may as well front up and release the Garcia original (even if necessarily redacted in parts to protect those who gave evidence on condition of anonymity). It is often the attempted cover-up that brings hubris."
The FBI could also be drawn into the furore. "FBI agents in New York were said last night to be seeking access to Garcia's report as they step up their three-year investigation into alleged corruption at Fifa," reports the Telegraph.
How angry are the English?
Livid. Scorn and anger oozes from every report into yesterday's events. Zurich is the place the truth goes to die, says Matt Dickinson in The Times. "Football is a wonderful, uplifting game. In Fifa's hands it becomes dirtied and disgraced. And there is no end in sight to its incompetence, or the Machiavellian twists that are beyond anything in the plot of House of Cards."
No one escapes Martin Samuel's wrath in the Daily Mail. Even Garcia, who allowed himself to be used by Fifa, and the FA, who were guilty of being swept up in the sleaze, should hang their heads, for Fifa is "a corrupt, diseased body". Any attempt to clean it up ends in impotent failure, just like in Roman Polanski's film Chinatown. "Football's governing body could have 48 tonnes of festering rhinoceros manure dumped upon it, and all anyone would note was that the bouquet had improved."
Is it just the English who are angry?
Certainly the reaction has been strongest here, with FA chairman Greg Dyke describing Fifa as a "joke", but that does not mean the rest of the world is sanguine. "Blatter has long clung to the comforting falsehood that the English media only reports all this because England lost out," writes David Conn in the Guardian.
Juliet Macur of the New York Times likens the Fifa report to the 1999 investigation into disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong amid claims of doping. "That report, like this one, should have uncovered so much more — like, for instance, the truth," she writes.