The long awaited decision of the FIFA Ethics Committee on the results of the investigation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes has just been handed down, and the guilty party has been identified:
Russia? They're fine. Qatar? No problem. Go in peace.
But apparently England - are you sitting down - "tried to curry favor with CONCACAF President Jack Warner" in violation of FIFA statutes. They will be officially reprimanded and may face additional penalties.
No, I am not making this up.
FIFA issued an official statement saying that it the whole question of the World Cup bidding processes is now "closed". Thanks everybody. Please drive safely.
Four hours later an irate Michael Garcia, the guy who conducted the investigation upon which the Ethics Committee based their deliberations, issued a public statement:
"Today’s decision by the Chairman of the Adjudicatory Chamber contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the Investigatory Chamber’s report. I intend to appeal this decision to the FIFA Appeal Committee."
Or, to put it a bit more bluntly, they ignored the stuff he uncovered, made up some lies that suited them, took a swipe at England (which is, I believe, required by FIFA statute) and then called it a day.
For another take on the subject, let's check in with Asian Football Confederation President, Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa:
“I am satisfied that Qatar has been absolved of any misconduct in their bid for the 2022 World Cup”
Russia Minister for Sport told Reuters:
"It's good to put a line under this and I hope we will not have talk about this again."
Of course the entire issue could be easily resolved by simply releasing Garcia's report. A number of FIFA Executive Committee members have been urging exactly that, including Michel Platini, Northern Ireland's Jim Boyce, Australia's Moya Dodd and Jordanian Prince Ali bin-Al Hussein.
Then we could all see for ourselves whether Garcia got the goods on Qatar, Russia and of course those blackguards from the England FA who were found guilty of kissing Jack Warner's behind. As if the line to perform that odious task didn't go around the block.
But FIFA has steadily maintained that the report - which runs to 350 pages - will never, ever be released. The explanations vary but all boil down to "you can't make us, so suck it".
Instead, supposedly the only people who have been allowed to see the results of Garcia's investigation are the members of the Adjudicatory Chamber, under chairman Hans-Joachim Eckert.
Now if you've followed FIFA for any length of time, this whole deal - which is nothing short of a whitewash - may not come as a complete surprise.
But the extent of the blatant, bald-faced shamelessness of it all is utterly gob smacking.
After all this time and all the leaked facts and the media investigations and the rest, the expectation was that they'd come up with a few minor violations - a free hotel suite here, a gift watch there, a ride in a private jet someplace else, all of which would get them a reprimand, maybe even a fine but which wouldn't rise to the level required to demand a re-bid.
(As with, for example, the German (DFB) official who was caught by Munich customs carrying two watches - total value $200,000 - he was given on a trip to Qatar. He told officials that he "forgot" he had them and that they were a gift from "a friend" whose name he couldn't recall.)
Apparently that was Garcia's opinion as well. As a lawyer and a former Interpol investigator (he was barred from traveling to Russia because of another investigation he worked on years ago) he knows what he had, and while he probably didn't have wild expectations about FIFA tossing over the whole deal he clearly thinks he had some people dead to rights and Eckart is letting them walk.
In the end, as always, Sepp Blatter has orchestrated this beautifully.