Champagne: World Cup bid probes need more time
GENEVA (AP) — Investigations of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes should be given more time to finish, according to FIFA presidential contender Jerome Champagne.
Ahead of the FIFA executive committee reviewing the case next week, Champagne suggested Wednesday that the hosting status of Russia and Qatar were still open to question.
“I only hope that the truth will come,” Champagne told The Associated Press in an interview, regarding the FIFA board’s choices in December 2010. “We have time and that is why we need to do things correctly after four years of controversies.”
“We need to protect the World Cup and we need to know if the 14-8 vote’s integrity has been respected or not,” he said, referring to Qatar’s margin of victory over the United States in a final round of voting in the 2022 contest.
Champagne said “a few more months” were needed to finish the investigations and finally deal with the case, which has long been linked to claims of vote-buying, collusion and favor-seeking.
Champagne said that FIFA’s own ethics probe of the hosting votes, an investigation which he believes is underway by the FBI, and FIFA’s criminal complaint to the Swiss attorney general — relating to conduct of unnamed individuals — are all unresolved.
Also, ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia has opened cases against five past and current FIFA officials including Germany great Franz Beckenbauer, a former board member who voted in 2010.
“We need to know what has happened. And to continue the process until the end,” said Champagne, who was FIFA international relations director until leaving in January 2010.
Still, any FIFA case against Russia and Qatar seemed closed last month by ethics judge Joachim Eckert, in a summary judgment of Garcia’s sealed 430-page investigation report.
After Garcia challenged the German judge’s findings, they agreed at peace talks to give FIFA’s audit and compliance chairman, Domenico Scala, authority to decide which key details are presented to the executive committee. It meets Dec. 18-19 in Marrakech, Morocco.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter will lead the boardroom debate which could include three longstanding members — Angel Maria Villar of Spain, Michel D’Hooghe of Belgium and Worawi Makudi of Thailand — currently being prosecuted by Garcia.
Champagne declined to comment on what he expects from the meeting, though he wants Garcia’s report published “as soon as possible” with appropriate redactions.
Though supportive of Russia’s hosting rights — which was “paying tribute to what Russian and Soviet Union football have brought to the world” — Champagne suggested Qatar could gain from ongoing investigations.
“I think it is even in the interests of the Qataris to make sure that this World Cup, if it takes place there, would be taking place with a free mind without keeping in the back of our brains all the controversies,” he said.
Champagne is the only prospective candidate to declare intent to rival Blatter, a longtime ally at FIFA, in a May 29 election in Zurich. Applications must be filed by January 29 with the support of five of FIFA’s 209 member federations.