FIFA clears Russia and Qatar of corruption over World Cup bids — but its own investigator isn't so sure

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Carol Hills: Soccer's world governing body FIFA has cleared Russia and Qatar of corruption in those countries' bids to host the World Cup. Whew, that's a relief, right? A FIFA judge ruled that Russia won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the one in 2022 fair and square. So soccer fans should be cheering, right? I've got The World's soccer guy, William Troop, with me. And, William, high fives all around?


William Troop: Sadly, no. This decision today by a FIFA judge leaves a lot of questions on the table without an answer and key among them is whether members of FIFA are corrupted. It's the big question all along.


Hills: What's the issue here? I mean this hotshot investigator, Michael Garcia, who is an American, did a huge report. He submits it and he himself is challenging it. So what happened between the time he wrote the report and submitted it and FIFA making this announcement that everything is fair and square?


Troop: Well, Garcia wrote a five-hundred-page report and what we got today from FIFA is a forty-two-page summary of that report. And the decision by FIFA is basically to say, "You know what? We got all these allegations and evidence from Michael Garcia and we think they don't amount to anything, so we're going to clear not only the countries that bid for the World Cups in 2018 and 2022, but also ourselves. We did nothing wrong." And Garcia has reacted by saying, "Whoa, wait a second." He has put a statement out that says that FIFA left some facts out of their summary and that they also used erroneous interpretations of what he said in the report. And, to top it all off, we don't know what's in the report because FIFA refuses to make it public.


Hills: Remind us what Russia and Qatar were accused of doing to win their bids.


Troop: Essentially they were accused of trading cash for votes, giving cash directly to members of FIFA’s executive committee, money, so that they would vote in favor of them holding the World Cup. This would be to the detriment of other countries like England, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United States even who were interested in hosting those tournaments. So it's a straight cash-for-votes controversy.


Hills: Now, you said FIFA is not going to release the report, but couldn't Michael Garcia sort of leak it and say, "This is what was in it."?


Troop: Well, he could, but bear in mind that he is a former US prosecutor. I think he wants to do things by the book. Unfortunately, FIFA is a private organization based in Switzerland, a country that is not known for forcing companies based there to release information, at least not very readily. And Garcia is going to appeal the decision from FIFA through the FIFA process, but, again, you're asking FIFA to basically judge itself on whether it's corrupt or not and there's so much money at stake when it comes to holding the World Cup that FIFA is not likely to point the finger at itself.


Hills: So, William, I have to ask you to take your journalist hat off for a moment, and I just want to say how does this make you feel? You're a huge soccer fan.


Troop: Well, not very good to be honest. I mean, as you said, I'm a great fan of soccer, have been all my life, and when the World Cup rolls around I'm really excited to watch what's happening on the field.


Hills: We know.


Troop: It should be about what's happening on the field. And yet these things just get in the way of enjoying that, and I think when the World Cups come around in 2018 and 2022 I'll watch them, but I'll be a little less excited about them.


Hills: The World's soccer guy, William Troop. Thanks a lot, William.


Troop: You're welcome.