GENEVA (AP) — Russia and Qatar appear to be the big winners on the day American prosecutor Michael Garcia lost his appeal against FIFA.
Garcia, a former U.S. Attorney, had objected to ethics judge Joachim Eckert's summary of his World Cup bid investigation into the 2018 and 2022 hosting votes, claiming there were "numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations" of his report.
The appeals committee of soccer's governing body ruled Tuesday that Garcia was unable to challenge Eckert's summary because they were only Eckert's opinions.
The German judge's summary "does not constitute a decision ... and as such is neither legally binding nor appealable," FIFA said Tuesday in a statement.
Still, Garcia's loss does not necessarily end the World Cup bid corruption case, nor finally dispel doubts about the integrity of a vote which chose Russia and Qatar as the next two hosts.
It did, however, signal a difficult week ahead for those seeking reforms within FIFA as Sepp Blatter and his executive committee gather in Morocco for a two-day session starting Thursday.
The main business for Blatter and the executive committee in Marrakech on Friday is deciding what to do with Garcia's investigation report.
Is it strong enough to justify keeping the corruption case open? And how much of Garcia's 430-page dossier should be published when the FIFA Code of Ethics demands that it stays sealed?
When Garcia and Eckert met for peace talks at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, they agreed to involve Domenico Scala, the Swiss-Italian pharmaceutical executive who chairs FIFA's audit and compliance committee.
Scala has been analyzing Garcia's report and must decide how much of it he will present to the 27-member FIFA executive committee.
Blatter's ruling committee should then decide if the case against bid candidates — also including much-criticized bids from Australia and England — has anywhere to go.
PUBLISH THE REPORT
In a separate discussion, the FIFA board will debate publishing the Garcia report — a document which has a sure place in FIFA lore given how critics have clamored for its release.
Some board members believe FIFA needs to publish Garcia's work in full to have a chance of restoring shattered public faith in soccer's traditionally secretive governing body.
Garcia himself has called for "appropriate publication" - getting key evidence out in the public domain while redacting names to protect some of the 75 witnesses who cooperated with his two-year probe.
That view is supported by Michel Platini, who as president of UEFA is a FIFA vice president, even though veteran European officials are in Garcia's crosshairs.
Publication could fuel public disquiet at the choice of Russia and Qatar by a widely discredited FIFA executive committee which, in December 2010, contained several now disgraced members.
Or it could hit Garcia's own reputation if some allegations which have been widely reported were not nailed.
Garcia's appeal loss does not affect his ongoing prosecutions of five men, including Franz Beckenbauer, the Germany great and former FIFA board member, for wrongdoing in the bid campaign.
Garcia also opened proceedings against three current FIFA board members — FIFA vice president Angel Maria Villar of Spain, Michel D'Hooghe of Belgium and Worawi Makudi of Thailand.
They also face sanctions for their actions during bid contests marred by claims of bribery, collusion and favor-seeking, and the subsequent investigation.
The fifth official charged is former Chile football leader Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who FIFA chose to lead an inspection team evaluating the nine candidates in 2010. Longtime FIFA skeptics note that the case against Mayne-Nicholls has intensified while he has been considering running against Blatter for president in May.
Indeed, the FIFA appeals panel urged Garcia on Tuesday to finish his work prosecuting individuals.
His 430-page dossier was not a final report and "neither cites any rule violations of an accused person, nor does it contain any kind of recommendation to the adjudicatory chamber for sanctioning an accused person," the panel said.
Garcia could pursue a further appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
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