England is expected to be criticised by a FIFA investigation into the World Cup bidding race, but it is understood investigators have not found evidence of wrongdoing that threatens Qatar staging the 2022 tournament.
FIFA will publish a 42-page summary of a two-year investigation into the controversial bidding process on Thursday morning.
Sky News understands that investigators will criticise several of the bidding nations for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, including Qatar, England, Australia and Russia.
Crucially for Qatar’s chances of staging the 2022 tournament however, the report does not conclude there were guilty of grave breaches of FIFA’s bidding rules.
The conduct of the Qatar bid, which was backed by a huge budget that far exceeded all its opponents, is likely to be criticised, but in the words of one source with knowledge of the investigation “there is no smoking gun”.
Qatar has been under intense scrutiny ever since it won the vote to host the tournament in December 2010, facing a string of corruption allegations including claims, consistently denied, that it offered bribes and other financial inducements to members of FIFA’s executive committee.
Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, formerly a member of the executive committee, is alleged to have distributed millions of pounds to football officials, but Qatar 2022 have always denied he was working on their behalf.
Several of the bids that took part can expect censure for aspects of their campaigns.
England may be censured for spending £35,000 to sponsor a football dinner in Trinidad at the request of discredited former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, and handing out Mulberry handbags to the wives of FIFA ex-co members.
Offers for the England team to play friendlies in Trinidad and Thailand, both of which had voting members, may also be mentioned.
Australia may be censured for offering development funds to countries with voting members, and Russia may be criticised for non-co-operation.
England’s hapless bid, which gained only two votes, may effectively be penalised for having co-operated fully with the investigation by US attorney Michael Garcia.
Not all bids have done so, with Bin Hammam among those who has refused to speak to the investigation. Garcia has no power to compel witnesses to testify if like Bin Hammam they are no longer involved in football.
There may also be examination of allegations that the Qatar and Spain-Portugal bids colluded in a vote-trading deal. FIFA abandoned a previous investigation citing a lack of evidence to substantiate the allegation, which was considered an open secret by the two bids opponents.
The summary published on Thursday has been written by Hans Joachim-Eckert, the German judge who chairs FIFA’s ethics committee.
He will ultimately decide which bids and individuals should face charges under FIFA’s rules, but it is unclear if he will make those decisions public in his report