Blatter said in a statement that “external legal experts” supported the view that “there are no legal grounds” to revoke the controversial vote in 2010 to award the World Cups to Russia and Qatar. Fifa’s executive committee agreed unanimously that an “appropriate” form of the report into World Cup bidding by Michael Garcia, the ethics investigator who resigned earlier this week, should be published but with names and other details removed.
Officials at a meeting in Morocco agreed to the proposal without a vote being taken – but nothing will be published until the ethics committee charges against three Fifa ExCo members – Angel Villar Llona of Spain, Belgium’s Michel D’Hooghe and Thailand’s Worawi Makudi – have been dealt with.
Blatter said at a news conference: “The famous Garcia report is no longer such a timely matter. At the current time, there is no reason to go back on our decisions. The decision of December 2010 stands.”
“The two World Cups are in the calendar, the only thing missing is the precise dates for 2022, but these two World Cups will take place,” said Blatter. “It would really need an earthquake, extremely important new elements to go back on this World Cup in Qatar.”
American lawyer Garcia produced a 430-page report into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. He quit on Wednesday as Fifa’s ethics investigator after losing his appeal challenging the findings to clear Russia and Qatar to host the World Cups.
The Fifa ExCo meeting was given a presentation by Domenico Scala, the head of Fifa’s audit and compliance committee, who suggested the report should be published in an “appropriate form” – with all names and other details redacted. This was agreed to by the members without a vote – though there were some strong views expressed questioning how much of the report should be made public.
Blatter said in a statement: “The report is about history and I am focused on the future. We will not revisit the 2018 and 2022 vote and a report by independent, external legal experts commissioned by Mr Scala supports the view that there are no legal grounds to revoke the executive committee’s decision on the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.”
Britain’s Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce welcomed the move to publish the report in some form. He said: “I am pleased the Fifa executive committee decided without a vote to publish this report. It shows that people at Fifa at the moment do desire transparency and the sooner we can get on with talking about the game of football that we all love, the better.”
Fifa’s ExCo appointed Zurich-based Swiss lawyer Cornel Borbely to replace Garcia in an acting capacity. Borbely had been Garcia’s deputy and took charge of the investigation into the Russian and American bids.
Borbely’s main task will be to take over the cases of Fifa ExCo members Villar Llona, D’Hooghe and Makudi, who all had proceedings opened against them by Garcia for either alleged code breaches during the 2018/2022 bidding process or for failing to comply with his investigations.
Garcia had also opened proceedings against former ExCo member Franz Beckenbauer, the former Germany player and coach, and Harold Mayne-Nicholls, head of Fifa’s inspection team which compiled a technical report on countries bidding for 2018 and 2022. Fifa also confirmed that a final decision on the exact timing of the 2022 World Cup will be made in March – November/December 2022 remains the most likely time in order to avoid the extreme heat of the summer. The last meeting of the task force looking at the dates will take place in Doha, Qatar, on 23 February. The executive committee also supported the creation of an independent body to oversee a programme to improve workers’ rights in Qatar.
Blatter also took the opportunity to stress again that he would be standing for a fifth term of office on 29 May next year against as yet unknown definite opponents.
Meanwhile, new rules banning third party ownership of players will come into force on 1 May next year, though existing agreements will be permitted until a player’s contract expires.
In other decisions, the ExCo agreed to scrap the age limit of 45 for referees – officials instead will have to take an annual fitness test. Prize money for the women’s World Cup is to rise by 50 per cent, from £6.4million in 2011 to £9.6m in 2015, with a pot of £1.28m going to the winning team.