FIFA bans World Cup bid inspection chief

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The head of FIFA’s inspection team for the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has been banned from football for seven years after it was revealed he asked for favours from Qatar.

Harold Mayne-Nicholls, 54, was in charge of the commission which assessed each bid and which rated Qatar, the winner of the vote to host the 2022 tournament, a high-risk option due to searing heat of the summer.

A leaked email from FIFA’s chief ethics investigator Cornel Borbely said Mayne-Nicholls “repeatedly asked for personal favours – including special treatment for family members” from Qatar shortly before he produced the evaluation report.

Russia were awarded the 2018 World Cup while Qatar were named as hosts for the 2022 event, with the voting process for both events being embroiled in controversy and criticism since then – the Swiss authorities are currently investigating the bidding process around the two tournaments.

A FIFA statement this afternoon read: “The adjudicatory chamber of the independent ethics committee, chaired by Hans-Joachim Eckert, has decided to ban Harold Mayne-Nicholls, former chairman of the Bid Evaluation Group for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups and former Chilean Football Association president, from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level for a period of seven years.

“The decision was taken following a hearing in the presence of the accused and the chairman of the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee, Dr Cornel Borbely.

“In accordance with article 36 of the FIFA code of ethics, more detailed information will be given after this final decision becomes effective.”

Mayne-Nicholls asked for places for his son and nephew at the Aspire academy in Qatar plus tennis coaching opportunities for his brother-in-law, according to investigators, but the Chilean insists he will fight the ban all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, He also expressed surprise that FIFA had announced the sanction.

He said on his Twitter account: “I’m surprised FIFA have advertised a sanction that has pending appeals, and may be overridden by higher judicial bodies.

“I will appeal to the higher courts established in FIFA statutes and TAS/CAS.”

An email from Borbely to Mayne-Nicholls on November 12 last year states the Chilean had contacted “a person associated with a bid team” – Andreas Bleicher, Aspire’s executive director of international affairs – “shortly after the inspection tour and prior to the issuance of the Evaluation Report on Qatar”.

The email states Mayne-Nicholls “repeatedly asked for personal favours – including special treatment for family members – exerting pressure until Mr Bleicher signalled his unwillingness to commit to anything in the near future”.

It adds: “Furthermore, said behaviour seems to be a cause enough to doubt the integrity of the inspection process and your evaluations.”

The evaluation report gave Qatar the worst ranking, mainly due to the extreme heat of the summer, but the country still won the vote for 2022. The country with the second-worst ranking, Russia, won the vote for 2018.

The email from Borbely, reproduced on the website, also showed in September 2010, Mayne-Nicholls contacted Bleicher asking for places at the academy for family members.

Bleicher replied initially that it “would be an honour for us to host your son and your nephew for a football evaluation and training period in Aspire” but later than month responded to a follow-up email saying “considering FIFA’s ongoing bidding process for the FIFA World Cups 2018/2022 with the involvement of Qatar 2022, we believe it might be advisable not to follow up on these topics at this point, as this might leave space for incorrect interpretations, even though Aspire is not involved in the bidding process, of course not”.

Mayne-Nicholls said in November he did not think the ethics case was connected to his announcement that he might challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency.

He said then: “I do not think it is because I might want to run. I think it is because the ethics committee needs to have a very clear picture about everything that happened in the 2018 and 2022 bids. I get relaxed with this because if they are investigating such a small thing then I can imagine how they are investigating the real, big things and that will give us transparency.”

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