Saturday 20 January 2018

Roman Abramovich caught up in World Cup row

Report finds foundation 'destroyed' computers linked to Russia bid while also criticising Qatar's campaign

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Photo: Getty Images
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Photo: Getty Images

Ben Rumsby

Roman Abramovich was last night dragged into the scandal over the countries chosen to host the next two World Cup finals after the long-awaited Garcia report revealed a football foundation linked to the Chelsea owner "destroyed" computers used by Russia's bid team for next year's tournament.

The 39-page findings of an investigation into the country's successful attempt to land the game's biggest event confirmed that Russia 2018 leased computers from the Konoplyov Football Academy, the administration of which had been taken over by Abramovich's Academy of Football in 2006.

A summary of the report published in November 2014 said the bid committee had made "only a limited amount of documents available for review" by investigators after those computers were destroyed upon being returned to their owner.


The full report released yesterday said the donor claimed to have done so "as they were considered obsolete".

There is no suggestion Abramovich personally authorised their destruction but his links to the firm involved in the disappearance of potentially crucial information is nevertheless a source of embarrassment for the Chelsea owner, who was part of the Russia delegation sent to the December 2010 vote in Zurich.

The report said the Konoplyov Football Academy leased the computers as the Russia bid committee "lacked sufficient funding" but the latter's chief executive, Alexey Sorokin, testified that Abramovich otherwise provided no financial assistance to the campaign.

Speaking about the computers' destruction in November 2014, Sorokin made no mention of Abramovich's involvement, telling Sky Sports News: "We rented the equipment, we had to give it back, then it went back - we don't even know where it went - to some sports schools, so quite naturally other people used it.

"Whatever we could supply, everything we could supply to the investigation, we did. But we have to bear in mind that four years have passed since then, so some of the information we could just forget, naturally."

The Russia section of the Garcia report was written not by Michael J Garcia, FIFA's chief investigator who had been banned from entering Russia, but by his deputy, Cornel Borbély, who succeeded him the following month.

Borbély investigated allegations by former English FA chairman Lord Triesman of collusion between the bids of Russia and Spain; allegations that Franz Beckenbauer - then a voting member of FIFA's executive committee - had entered into a contract with a Russian gas company in exchange for his support; allegations that executive committee colleague Michel D'Hooghe accepted a work of art in exchange for his backing; and allegations Russia 2018 attempted unduly to influence disgraced exco member Amos Adamu in exchange for helping fund development programmes in Nigeria.

Borbély was also given "vague testimony" of an illicit vote-trading agreement between the bid team of Russia and that of Japan, which was seeking the 2022 tournament.

The investigation found "only partial compliance" on behalf of Russia 2018 with reporting requirements about contact with FIFA exco members, but it found no evidence the team exerted undue influence on those members, no violation of rules about gifts and benefits in kind, and no evidence of collusion with other bids.

The findings appeared to end any prospect of the report being used to strip Russia of next year's World Cup, which arguably could not be said of what emerged about Qatar's successful bid for the 2022 tournament.


That section of the report was written by Garcia himself and found the tiny Gulf state's campaign had "served to undermine the integrity of the bidding process".

Garcia expressed concern about the relationship between the Qatari government, including the country's Emir, and the bid team, which it said had "helped create an appearance of impropriety".

The report found that Qatar 2022 officials had contemplated "recruiting or standing behind government officials or other agents who then do what FIFA rules forbade bid officials from doing directly".

The bid team was accused of "missing the point" when it sought to argue the country's Emir was "not bound by FIFA's rules".

Garcia also cited the role played in Qatar's bid by the Aspire Academy, the country's high-tech sports facility, concluding: "At a minimum, the targeting of Aspire-related resources to curry favour with executive committee members created the appearance of impropriety. Those actions served to undermine the integrity of the bidding process."

The report also found three FIFA exco members had, prior to the December 2010 ballot, been flown to a party in Rio on a private jet provided by the Qatari Football Association.

One of them, the disgraced Ricardo Teixeira, was also said to have had his "lavish accommodations" funded by Qatar's bid team during a friendly between Brazil and Argentina in Doha a month before the vote. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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