World Cup ‘corruption’ report: England friendly plan ‘a form of bribery’

A plan for England to play a friendly in Thailand to win backing for their 2018 World Cup bid was “a form of bribery”, investigators were told.

Ex-Football Association chairman Geoff Thompson made the admission when interviewed during an inquiry into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting bids.

On Tuesday, football’s world governing body Fifa released the full 2014 report of the investigation.

That followed leaked extracts being published by German newspaper Bild.

The 422-page report was written by former Fifa independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia.

He quit in protest when the organisation only released a 42-page summary of his document.

That version cleared Russia and Qatar, winners of the 2018 and 2022 hosting rights respectively, of corruption allegations.

However, it was critical of the actions of some Fifa executive committee members and some of the bidding teams, including England’s.

The full report goes into more detail about this conduct, and also cites an interview given by the 2018 England World Cup bid chief Thompson around the national team’s plans to travel to Thailand to secure a vote for their bid.

The offer to stage the friendly was made only eight days before the vote in 2010 to decide the 2018 and 2022 hosts. The offer was withdrawn three weeks later, by which stage it was clear Thailand had not supported the English bid.

The FA was open at the time about the friendly being arranged to win support.

But Garcia’s report reads: “Top English football officials recognised that arranging friendlies with a team from an executive committee’s home country in order to advance the England 2018 bid was improper.

“Geoff Thompson candidly told the investigatory chamber he ‘didn’t think it was appropriate’ to organise the proposed England-Thailand match-up or other friendlies targeting teams associated with executive committee members ‘because I think it’s a form of bribery’.

“The game’s cancellation only underscores the improper relationship between the 24 November 2010 offer to play the game and the 2 December World Cup vote.”

Why has the report been released now?

Fifa said its president Gianni Infantino had always intended to release the full document, but its former ethics chiefs had refused to publish it.

The former chairmen of the ethics committee, Cornel Borbely and Hans-Joachim Eckert, were replaced in May after completing four-year terms.

Speaking in October 2014, Eckert said: “Publishing the report in full would actually put the Fifa ethics committee and Fifa itself in a very difficult situation legally.”

The pair moved to clarify their position later on Tuesday, issuing a statement which said the decision not to publish “was in line with Fifa rules” as some cases brought as a result of the report were still ongoing.

They added: “To this day, Mr Infantino has never contacted us and asked for a publication.”

Fifa said it had intended to discuss the release of the report at a meeting next month, but added: “As the document has been illegally leaked to a German newspaper, the new chairpersons have requested the immediate publication of the full report in order to avoid the dissemination of any misleading information.

“For the sake of transparency, Fifa welcomes the news that this report has now been finally published.”

Qatar 2022 officials said they welcomed the report’s publication, although they questioned “the timing of the leak”, and said it represented “a vindication of the integrity of our bid”.

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