In an exclusive report, The Telegraph says that FBI agents recently interviewed members of the England 2018 bid committee as part of an ongoing investigation of last December's award process.
According to the report, by the usually reliable Paul Kelso along with Claire Newell, the agents have “really great intelligence” relating to corruption in the bid process including “substantial evidence” that the email accounts of US and England bid team members were targeted by hackers from an unidentified "outside organization".
They have also apparently taken an interest in Mohammad Bin Hammam's Port of Spain Bribefest on the suspicion that the cash involved - around a million bucks in US currency - was transported through the US on it's way to Trinidad and the Feds take a very dim view of the movement of large undeclared amounts of cash across US borders.
Unfortunately, while this kind of report has serious sex appeal and is likely to generate some buzz, the FBI asks around about a lot of stuff all the time and there's a good chance that it will go nowhere.
Be that as it may, almost as interesting is the second half of the piece - mostly a rehash of old stuff used to flesh out what would otherwise be a two sentence article - which includes a summary of the whole Warner-Bin Hammam CFU mess.
They manage to miss some key points, but the part that caught my eye was when, in noting the controversy surrounding Chuck Blazer's CONCACAF commissions, they note:
"The payments were detailed in accounts and letters sent to the FBI by British journalist Andrew Jennings."
Now of course I've been saying this exact same thing all along but this seems to be independent corroboration of the fact that "accounts and letters" which were in files that only Jack Warner has access to were sent to Andrew Jennings (a fact which Jennings tacitly acknowledged in a recent conversation) and Jennings, in turn, sent them to the FBI himself.
Whereupon he then gleefully wrote the now-infamous and much-quoted "the FBI is in possession of information about payments to Chuck Blazer" article without noting that he was the one responsible.
Go back and read Jennings piece for yourself. It's a monument to weaselry.
Now we all know that "journalistic ethics" is a contradiction in terms these days but that's got to set some kind of record for sleaziness if not, in fact, blatant dishonesty.
As for the topic of 2022 itself, no less an authority than Frank Lowy, the ridiculously rich Australian Federation President who spent $45 million of his government's money and got fewer votes than even England says that their World Cup bid is still alive:
"...I said (last December) that this is not the last word. It wasn't the last word, and the last word hasn't been heard yet.
"I don't know exactly where it will bounce, but it's not over yet."
Now to some extent, Frank is trying to make the best of an embarrassing situation where people are asking what, exactly, they got for all the money they gave him. (Note to Australia: the answer is "bupkis")
But of course people all over the world - and not just sour grapes Americans and Brits - really want to know is whether there's any chance that the Qatar decision can be overturned.
Because it's gotten to the point that nobody is even bothering to deny the fact that the voting was rigged and Qatar got the thing with a mixture of intergovernmental pressure and outright bribery. Even the Qataris don't even waste much breath trying to say otherwise.
Meanwhile, Michel Platini, who fully intends to be President of FIFA as the first ball is kicked that year, is back to saying that the finals will be played in the Winter months to avoid killing off players, fans and sponsors in the brutal heat of the desert.
(Blatter himself is still swearing that won't happen, but he'll be long out of office, and quite possibly dead and buried, by 2022 and so nobody pays the slightest bit of attention to him.)
And despite Sepp's prodigious committee-forming (the newest one is a resurrection of the long-moribund "Strategic Committee", which he's invited Sunil Gulati to join. I think Blatter's real goal is to end up with everyone in the world on at least one FIFA committee and, thereby, sucking on a FIFA expense account and $500 a day stipend. I know I'm available) no one seems capable of giving us a straight answer on Qatar.
In fact, the alliance he built over the past few months with Transparency International - he was very proud of it - just collapsed the week with the announcement that TI will sever their relationship with FIFA and withdraw from any further cooperation.
This is a huge and stinging embarrassment for Our Man Sepp; headlines about universally respected truth in governance organizations slamming the door in his face are not what he needs right now.
Transparency says the reason is twofold: first, that Dr. Mark Pieth, a Basel professor who served as part of the United Nation's team that investigated corruption in the Iraqi oil-for-food aid program who Blatter named as head of the new Governance Committee, has been put on FIFA's payroll and thus cannot be trusted to be truly independent.
Secondly, TI says they were told that the World Cup bidding process issue was off the table and could not be investigated.
Now, however, both Pieth and Blatter are saying that's not true, that they can in fact take a look at the WC voting if they decide to.
And leaving aside the obvious ambiguity of that particular answer, the real question becomes: If they choose to open an investigation and find rampant and wholesale corruption, then what?
Will they demand a do-over? Do they even have that kind of authority? Almost certainly what they'll say is that it's impossible to take it back but they plan on putting some serious controls on the process so this kind of ugliness is never repeated.
Which is, in the end, a lot like investigating a theft, admitting that a crime occurred but letting the thieves keep the money with the understanding that you're going to be keeping a close eye on them from now on.
It all just keeps getting stranger and stranger.