FIFA clears Qatar and Russia but criticises England over World Cup bids

A FIFA judge has cleared Russia and Qatar of corruption in their winning bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in a report published on Thursday.

FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert formally ended an investigation into the bidding contests almost four years after the vote by the governing body's executive committee.

No proof of bribes or voting pacts was found in an investigation that was hampered by a lack of access to evidence and uncooperative witnesses.

England, however, was heavily criticised over its bid to host the 2018 tournament.

FIFA prosecutor Michael Garcia blasted Eckert's report on Thursday, saying it "contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed" in Garcia's own report.

The former U.S. Attorney said in a statement that he would appeal to the FIFA ethics committee.

A 42-page report by German judge Eckert, the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA's independent ethics committee, ruled on Garcia's investigation -- and the findings ended the possibility of a rerun of the voting process.

Qatar had faced numerous allegations of corruption, but the report turned much of its fire on England's conduct, saying it had "damaged the integrity of the ongoing bidding process."

It said the England 2018 bid team's attempts to secure the FIFA executive votes apparently controlled by disgraced ex-vice-president Jack Warner included securing a job for a family friend in Britain and "violated bidding rules."

But the investigation found that any rule breaches by Qatar, Russia and England were of "limited scope" and "far from reaching any threshold that would require returning to the bidding process, let alone reopening it."

Warner was said to have "showered" the England 2018 bid team with "inappropriate requests" which were "often accommodated."

"Relevant occurrences included Mr. Warner pressing, in 2009 and again in 2010, England's bid team to help a person of interest to him find a part-time job in the UK," the document read.

"England 2018's top officials, in response, not only provided the individual concerned with employment opportunities, but also kept Mr. Warner apprised of their efforts as they solicited his support for the bid."

The report said England 2018 had picked up the bill for a 35-thousand-pound gala dinner for Caribbean officials, also providing "substantial assistance" for a training camp for an under-20 Trinidad and Tobago team in 2009.

Warner asked for favours for his Trinidad football club Joe Public FC, and the investigators found that "the bid team often accommodated Mr Warner's wishes in apparent violation of bidding rules and the FIFA code of ethics."

#INSERT type:image caption:Qatar and Russia won the votes to host the 2022 and 2018 tournaments. END#

"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," it said. "Yet such damage was again of rather limited extent."

The report hit out at Lord Triesman, the England bid chairman, saying he did not cooperate with the Garcia investigation but had used his parliamentary privilege to make a number of allegations of corruption in the bidding process.

Triesman accused four FIFA executive committee members of requesting gifts in return for votes.

He resigned from his chairmanship in 2010, while chief executive Andy Anson was appointed as independent director of the British Olympic Association in 2011.

Garcia's investigation examined the bidding processes of the nine nations competing to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, with the vote on hosting taking place in 2010.

That vote saw Russia announced as 2018 hosts -- England received only two votes -- and Qatar awarded the 2022 event.

Qatar had faced numerous allegations involving Qatari former FIFA executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam, who was banned for life by FIFA.

Bin Hammam was alleged to have organised payments for Warner and other officials, but Qatar World Cup officials had always insisted he was separate from the bid team.

But the FIFA investigators found bin Hammam was "distant" from the Qatari bid committee and that payments made to Warner and some African officials were more connected with the challenge he had made to president Sepp Blatter in 2011.

It did, however, note "certain indications of potentially problematic conduct of specific individuals."

Russia was also criticised, with the 42-page document finding that its officials had made "only a limited amount of documents available for review" because it was found that computers used at the time had been scrapped.

The report also found Australia had made efforts to woo Warner and Oceania chief Reynald Temarii, with those attempts including the provision of funds for development projects.

It said "certain payments from the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) to CONCACAF which... appear to have been co-mingled, at least in part, with personal funds of the then CONCACAF president [Warner] who at the time also was a FIFA executive committee member" had been identified.

The document condemned those behind the joint Spain-Portugal bid for the 2018 tournament, saying, "the relevant federation was particularly un-cooperative in responding to the investigatory chamber's requests."

In a statement, FIFA said it believed the publication of Eckert's report on the Garcia investigation had brought "a degree of closure."

The statement said: "As such, FIFA looks forward to continuing the preparations for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022, which are already well under way.

"FIFA supports the independent ethics committee with respect to their preparedness to potentially open future cases against officials based on the information obtained during this investigation."

A short statement from the Qatar 2022 team said officials would consider the report thoroughly before giving a more detailed response.

It stressed that they had "cooperated fully with the ethics committee's investigation and continue to believe that a fair and appropriate review will demonstrate the integrity and quality of our bid."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.