In Depth

Fifa crisis: World Cup boycott could prompt football schism

Uefa urged to take the ultimate step and walk away from scandal-hit governing body

Sepp Blatter Fifa 2018 World Cup

Could Fifa's botched efforts to clear itself of any wrongdoing in relation to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process cause a schism in world football?

The crisis engulfing the sport escalated over the weekend with new claims of corruption, calls for a World Cup boycott and suggestions that Uefa, which represents the European nations, could take the "ultimate step of quitting Fifa" unless Michael Garcia's report into the bidding process is published in full, reports The Observer.

Garcia spent 18 months investigating various corruption allegations surrounding the award of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Russia and Qatar. His 430-page dossier was distilled down to a 42-page report by Hans-Joachim Eckert, which was published last week.

To the surprise of no-one it exonerated Fifa, Russia and Qatar and denounced England and Australia, two of the countries who were most vocal in their criticism of the vote. But Garcia's furious reaction has sent shockwaves through world football and prompted talk of a split. The US attorney washed his hands of the conclusions in Eckert's summary and accused Fifa of misrepresenting his findings. He wants the matter to be investigated by Fifa's appeals committee amid demands that his full report is now published.

European boycott

Former FA chairman David Bernstein has now called on European nations to boycott the 2018 World Cup unless Fifa embarks on a process of meaningful reform.

He told the BBC: "At some stage, you have to walk the walk, stop talking and do something." He described Fifa as "beyond ridicule" and likened the organisation under the leadership of the "formidable, very shrewd [and] very smart" Sepp Blatter to the "old Soviet empire".

Bernstein said it would be impossible for Fifa to run a "serious" World Cup without countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Holland.

Uefa could leave Fifa

The English distrust of Fifa is well known, but it was a German who has raised the prospect of taking the ultimate sanction and walking away from the organisation.

President of the German Football League, Dr Reinhard Rauball, told German website Kicker that Fifa had suffered a "complete loss of credibility", and added that if the "crisis is not resolved in a credible manner, you have to entertain the question of whether you are still in good hands with Fifa".

"One option that would have to bear serious consideration is certainly that Uefa leaves Fifa," he said.

"Rauball's intervention comes against the backdrop of Uefa's calls for the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, to stand down, as he promised to do at the end of his current four-year term," reports the Observer, which notes that Uefa are hoping to find a candidate to stand against the Swiss next year.

Qatar corruption allegations

The Sunday Times, which has campaigned long and hard on the issue, this weekend carried more allegations of corruption against Qatar, despite Eckert's findings last week.

It reports that the now disgraced Qatari official Mohamed bin Hammam, said by Fifa not to be part of the Qatar bid team, "engaged in illicit activities to secure the votes needed to bring the 2022 World Cup to the desert state".

The paper claims "Bin Hammam had asked [a member of the England 2018 team] whether England would guarantee European votes in favour of Qatar if he pledged his own vote to England".

It also claims Bin Hamman's staff have destroyed evidence relating to the Qatari bid, "raising concerns that crucial evidence of his secret campaign has been destroyed".

The paper says its latest revelations "further undermine the credibility of Fifa’s £6m in-house investigation into corruption", as they come from a source who was not interviewed by Garcia. "It makes you wonder about who else he didn’t speak to," said a source.

Whistlblowers 'crucified'

Two whistleblowers who gave evidence to Garcia have also spoken out about their treatment at the hands of Fifa. Phaedra Almajid, who worked on Qatar's bid, made allegations of corruption after the process but later withdrew them after being threatened with a $1m lawsuit by Qatar.

She said Fifa offered her no support when she came forward with the claims, and her evidence was dismissed in Eckert's report last week. She told the Mail on Sunday: "When it comes to Fifa, be prepared to be crucified, not once or twice but over and over again. Be prepared to suffer and pay for your actions. Be prepared never to feel safe and never to feel you can trust anyone. But most importantly, be ready to be betrayed by those who have promised to protect you."

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