The English Football Association rejected criticism of its failed bid for the 2018 World Cup on Thursday after it was accused by a FIFA ethics judge of damaging the integrity of the bid process.
FIFA judge Joachim Eckert’s report found “potentially problematic facts and circumstances” surrounding the bid, specifically criticizing England’s attempts to woo disgraced former FIFA vice president Jack Warner.
The report also criticized Australia for its conduct during the bidding for the 2022 World Cup. However, Eckert ruled England’s and Australia’s actions did not affect the integrity of the 2010 vote which gave the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
“We do not accept any criticism regarding the integrity of England’s bid or any of the individuals involved,” the English FA said in a statement. “We conducted a transparent bid and, as the report demonstrates with its reference to the England bid team’s ‘full and valuable cooperation,’ willingly complied with the investigation.
“We maintain that transparency and cooperation around this entire process from all involved is crucial to its credibility.”
England received only two of the 22 votes in the 2018 election, while Australia received only one in the 2022 decision.
Eckert’s report rebuked England for its ties to Warner, the former head of CONCACAF, the North American soccer confederation. England has been a vocal critic of Warner, FIFA and FIFA President Sepp Blatter since its humiliating vote result.
Eckert accused Warner, who resigned from FIFA in 2011 to avoid a corruption investigation, of “showering the England 2018 bid team with inappropriate requests” to gain his vote.
Eckert said in his 42-page report that Warner’s expectation that bidders would accommodate his wishes was in “apparent violation of bidding rules” and FIFA’s ethics code.
“England 2018’s response showed a willingness, time and again, to meet such expectation, thereby damaging the image of FIFA and the bidding process,” the German judge added, saying ethics proceedings could be launched against “specific individuals.”
England’s bid team was very public in its attempts to gain Warner’s support, embarking on high-profile trips to Trinidad and Tobago. But having reviewed evidence from ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia, Eckert criticized England for agreeing to Warner’s request to pay $55,000 to sponsor a Caribbean Football Union dinner in 2010, which “damaged the integrity of the bidding process.”
Eckert found the damage was of a “limited extent” as was also the case when England provided “substantial assistance” for the Trinidad and Tobago under-20 team to train in Britain in 2009, and appeared willing to provide “benefits” to a Warner-owned club.
England found a job in Britain for a “person of interest” to Warner, Eckert said, giving the appearance “it sought to confer a personal benefit on Mr. Warner in order to influence his vote.”
David Triesman, who led England’s bid at one time but resigned before the vote, refused to provide evidence to the inquiry, said Eckert, who assessed the Englishman’s previous claims in a British parliamentary hearing.
In 2011, Triesman made accusations against Warner and three other members of FIFA’s executive committee at the time of bidding, which FIFA dismissed. Eckert’s report said he believes “serious violations of bidding rules” occurred and said disciplinary proceedings could be launched relating to England’s bid.
On Australia’s bid, Eckert said he was troubled by the links between its financial backing for apparent football development work overseas, highlighting attempts to divert Australian government funding set aside for African projects to countries with ties to FIFA voters.
“Australia’s acquiescence helped create the appearance that benefits were conferred in exchange for a vote, thus undermining the integrity of the bidding process,” Eckert said.
Eckert also found that two Australia consultants “violated the bidding and ethics rules.”
Eckert said one consultant gave “the appearance, at least to his employer, that he was improperly influencing the process” using his “purported relationship with high-ranking FIFA officials.”
Eckert suggested Australia’s actions could lead to “specific individuals” facing action.
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