FIFA's ethics committee reviewed the independent report investigating the controversial World Cup bids to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 and found that there wasn't sufficient evidence to warrant stripping either host country of the tournament.
New York lawyer Michael Garcia spent 18 months investigating whether there were indeed bribes and kickbacks to various FIFA executive committee members in exchange for their votes. He called the review led by Hans-Joachim Eckert, the head of FIFA's adjudicatory chamber, "erroneous" and plans to appeal FIFA's version of the report.
"Today's decision by the Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber contains numerous incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in [my] report," Garcia said in a statement. "I intend to appeal this decision to the FIFA appeal committee."
While FIFA appears content with the report's findings, the FBI is not. A CNN report from Thursday morning said that U.S. officials are ramping up the investigation into supposed corruption by top FIFA officials. The on-going investigation could still result in charges against senior FIFA officials, according to the report. The FBI is leaning on Garcia's report and a former FIFA official who has become an informant.
Garcia had been under the impression that FIFA would publish a redacted version of his exhausting report, but was dismayed to find out that it would be culled and parsed by Eckert. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has said that Garcia's full report can't be disclosed to the public because of legal reasons and to protect the witnesses.
Although FIFA's report didn't find justifiable evidence for stripping either host country of the World Cup, it did note that computers used in Russia's bid were destroyed and e-mails weren't available to investigators. Alexei Sorokin, who ran Russia's organizing bid, denied any wrongdoing. "Everything we could supply to the investigation we did," he said.
As for Qatar, Eckert said that illegal payments made from disgraced Qatari official Mohamed Bin Hammam -- on the FIFA executive committee in 2010 -- to several FIFA officials weren't tied to Qatar's World Cup bid. Bin Hammam, who campaigned to become FIFA's president, was banned after paying for bribes in an effort to oust Sepp Blatter from the position.
"In particular, the effects of these occurrences on the bidding process as a whole were far from reaching any threshold that would require returning to the bidding process, let alone re-opening it," Eckert said.
FIFA's report found wrongdoing among all 11 bidding countries, but it appears that the next two World Cups will remain in place. The most damning aspect of Eckert's review was reserved for England's 2018 bid, which solicited the help of disgraced former FIFA VP Jack Warner.
"England's response to Mr. Warner's improper demands, in at a minimum always seeking to satisfy them in some way, damaged the integrity of the ongoing bidding process," FIFA's review said. "Yet, such damage was again of rather limited extent."
To a degree, the investigation is closed, but the opaque nature of the various reports only opens FIFA up to more criticism.
Eckert concluded that the bidding process was "well thought out, robust and professional."
FIFA released a statement early Thursday morning: "FIFA welcomes the fact that a degree of closure has been reached with the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber stating today that the 'evaluation of the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process is closed for the FIFA ethics committee.' As such, FIFA looks forward to continuing the preparations for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 which are already well under way."