World Cup corruption report: What next for Fifa and Sepp Blatter?

By Richard ConwayBBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent
Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter has been Fifa president since 1998

Fifa has agreed to publish Michael Garcia's 430-page report into allegations that the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup was blighted by corruption and collusion.

But what will Friday's decision mean for Garcia, Fifa president Sepp Blatter and the battered image of world football's governing body?

BBC Radio 5 live's Richard Conway was in Marrakech, Morocco for Fifa's key meeting.

Should we be surprised by the events?

Sepp Blatter's bravura performance in front of the cameras in Marrakech gave the sense that these developments had always been planned.

But agreeing to release the report is a significant U-turn given how Fifa long advocated that it was legally unable to do so and how they needed to protect the confidentiality of the 75 witnesses who provided evidence to Michael Garcia during his two-year, worldwide inquiry.

The stench of corruption - real or perceived - has trailed Fifa in the four years since the decision to award Russia the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 tournament was made.

Fifa World Cup report: Sepp Blatter says crisis is over

Since then allegations, rumours, claims and counterclaims have swirled around the organisation, blighting its efforts to change its image following a series of other financial and voting related scandals.

The Garcia report - with its summary from Fifa's ethics adjudicator, the German judge Hans Joachim Eckert - was supposed to draw a line under the whole affair.

Garcia, a heavyweight US lawyer with a track-record of success in high-profile cases, and Eckert, a German judge with many years' experience, were supposed to provide the necessary clout to allay all the doubts and fears over the integrity of the vote.

For three hours after Eckert published a 43-page summary, Fifa promoted what it believed was a job well done. It was time to move on, to start thinking and planning about Russia and about the first World Cup in an Islamic country four years after that.

Then Garcia dropped the bombshell that he felt the Eckert summary was "erroneous" and launched an appeal.

That appeal was dismissed on Tuesday and Garcia resigned 24 hours later, prompting Uefa president Michel Platini to call the overall situation another "Fifa failure".

Fifa at an all-time low - Gary Lineker

At that moment the meeting in Marrakech became more important in terms of presenting a united front and denying there was any sense of crisis.

Blatter tried to achieve that by highlighting and emphasising the importance of his executive committee.

He was supported throughout by Domenico Scala, the independent head of Fifa's audit and compliance committee, who talked through a report in which he outlined how two legal experts had reconfirmed Eckert's judgement that there should be no revote for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

Meanwhile, the reform-minded members of the group have grown in number and confidence with Platini urging them in July not to be "sheep" within the committee room.

Blatter has sensed the way the political wind is blowing and, as in previous tricky periods of his career, is changing tack.

When will the full report be released?

It will be published once the investigations into five football officials - said to include three serving members of the Fifa executive committee - have concluded.

Given that all five may appeal against the decision if it goes against them, it could be some time yet.

Nevertheless, Fifa is keen that the process is carried out as swiftly as possible as it seeks to move on.

Do we know what will be in it?

No, although Fifa appears confident there is no smoking gun - hence Blatter's insistence this was an end to the crisis.

What about what won't be in it?

For legal and confidentiality reasons parts of the original report will be redacted - blacked out. Fifa was careful to say that it would publish "where legally possible" so how much is withheld will be in the hands of the lawyers.

What about Fifa's image now?

Blatter says he will "fight for football". But Fifa's image is truly at an all-time low.

Many critics believe true reform can't occur until there's a change of leadership.

But Blatter made clear that he intends to stand for election in May and seek a fifth term of office, even at the age of 78.

He may want to concentrate on other matters but with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in Britain interested in pursuing an investigation, that may not be an option available to him.

Added to that is the recent admission by the UK solicitor general that the SFO has spoken to overseas law enforcement agencies in a bid to be cooperative and share information.

That could be a reference to the FBI, with two recent reports in the United States claiming that officials from the crime agency are actively pursuing a case linked to Fifa.

According to the New York Daily News, former Fifa executive Chuck Blazer even helped agents gather evidence against football officials during a visit to the London 2012 Olympics.

All the signs are that Fifa's troubles on this matter are far from over yet.

And Sepp Blatter's reputation?

A Fifa source close to the Swiss told me this week that in 2011, after winning what he said would be his last four years in charge, Sepp Blatter was determined to seal his legacy, to reform the organisation and to bow out with grace.

Something, somewhere changed. Blatter decided he wanted to run again, to go on into his 80s.

At that point, the source revealed, every decision he took had a political element. Every meeting, alliance and incident was viewed through the prism of getting re-elected.

Now with Fifa staring into the abyss when it comes to its credibility, Blatter seems reinvigorated to "fight" on and to leave on his terms.

Finally, what happens to Garcia?

After a stellar legal career Michael Garcia accepted a role with Fifa.

Despite not even being a football fan, he was plunged into the maelstrom of Fifa politics.

Now free of his Fifa responsibilities there are rumours that he may seek political office. At the very least he will continue with his private legal practice work with law firm Kirkland & Ellis.

The one thing it's safe to say is that it's unlikely his time dealing with Fifa has converted him into a football fanatic.

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