COMMENT: The Fifa president wants to continue beyond his current term after his executive committee bowed to pressure and agreed to publish the Garcia report
By Peter Staunton in Marrakech
Sepp Blatter remains on top of the football world and doesn’t care who knows it. “We have been in crisis but with the decision of the Executive Committee today the crisis has stopped,” he beamed.
For it was the president himself who revealed that he had managed to convince the Fifa Executive Committee to decide to publish the Garcia report in an “appropriate form” based on the recommendations of Fifa’s head of Audit and Compliance committee Domenico Scala.
The appeal for retrospective legislation, tabled by German Exco member Theo Zwanziger, was passed through the world governing body on Friday and it means that Fifa’s U-turn regarding Garcia’s report is complete.
When will it go out? “I hope fast,” Scala said. How much it will we see? Who knows. The upshot of the Fifa Executive Committee’s two-day summit in Marrakech is that “famous Garcia report”, as Blatter repeatedly called it, will indeed finally be seen. That is more than what was initially expected here but as always with Blatter and the world governing body, there is a snag.
Due to the ongoing investigations into members of the Executive Committee in regard to their behaviour in the awarding of the 2018 and the 2022 World Cups, the report will not see light of day until those are concluded. It means that the Garcia report remains, for now, out of the public eye. There is also the issue of the protection of 75 witnesses who gave evidence to Garcia during the course of his investigations.
Scala was tasked with assessing the Garcia report, as well as the controversial summary provided by Fifa’s ethics committee adjudicatory chief Hans-Joachim Eckert, and passing on his findings to the ExCo. He enlisted the help of two experts; German Professor Martin Nolte and a Civil Law professor in Zurich Anton Heini. They also concluded, like Eckert did, that not enough evidence was present in the Garcia report to necessitate stripping the hosting rights of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups from Russia or Qatar.
It is a safe bet, based on the words of Fifa president Sepp Blatter, that those two tournaments will now go ahead as scheduled. “There is no reason to say that our decisions were wrong,” said Blatter. “We will go on sticking to our decisions. Both tournaments are in our calendar. There must be huge upheaval and new elements come to the fore to change things. For the time being the Executive Committee sees no reasons to change anything.”
Blatter disclosed, however, that the war between Garcia, the now departed head of the investigatory chamber of Fifa’s ethics committee, and his adjudicatory chamber counterpart Eckert had left Fifa in a muddle.
“Instead of solving problems, they have created problems,” Blatter said. “We should restore the credibility of this entity – the ethics committee.”
Scala agreed with those sentiments and recommended after the mess that came in the wake of the Eckert summary and the Garcia resignation that things would have to be done differently in the future by the Ethics Committee.
Blatter now pertains to have drawn his Executive Committee together in order to drive Fifa forward. He spoke of the “big fighters” he had on the ExCo while Scala revealed that there were significant tensions across the board before the decision to publish was taken.
Blatter will now take credit from steering Fifa away from yet another crisis which occurred, initially, on his watch. It sets him up for another run at the presidency next year.
“If the Lord gives me health and good luck, I will bring back Fifa,” he said. “But not alone. I need my Executive Committee and the football family.
“I am confident and trust in myself. We will see on February 1 who are the candidates for election. Probably my name will be there. Let me pass Christmas and give me the opportunity to say ‘yes, I will be president’.”
Chilean FA head, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, is facing proceedings as a result of Garcia’s investigation and is tipped to run for the presidency against Blatter next year. That Blatter remains standing after this and all that has gone before does not bode well for any potential rival.
Say what you like about Blatter but his misfortune in steering Fifa governance towards crisis after crisis is put into the shade only by his relentless ability in taking the world governing body out of them.