Tottenham Hotspur has been mentioned in the so-called Garcia Report, a document compiled by American lawyer Michael Garcia in the wake of allegations of corruption and vote fixing in the World Cup host selection process.
The report, the result of a two year investigation into the voting process that controversially awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, notes that Tottenham provided a job to the son of a prominent figure connected to now-banned former FIFA executive committee member Jack Warner, a small favor that may have been used by England’s World Cup committee to help sway votes for England’s bid for the 2018 competition.
There’s quite a bit to unpack here, so let’s dive right in.
What is the Garcia Report?
In 2012, after evidence surfaced that the 2018 and 2022 World Cup selection process may have been influenced by corruption, FIFA appointed American lawyer and FIFA Ethics Committee member Michael Garcia to look into the allegations. His final report in 2014 report was not released to the public, but a heavily edited summary of Garcia’s report was released by FIFA. Since FIFA was the organization under investigation, few people believed their edited version of events, and Garcia eventually resigned in protest after FIFA refused to release the full document.
The gist of the allegations against FIFA are that there was rampant corruption taking place surrounding and leading up to the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and especially the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, when there were arguably better candidates to host the competitions (England in 2018, USA or Australia in 2022). That, of course, is not surprising. It’s news today because apparently German newspaper Bild got ahold of the unreleased full report, and was planning to release it to the public on Wednesday. FIFA attempted to control the conversation by releasing it one day ahead of Bild’s story.
So what does this have to do with Tottenham?
In 2009, former FIFA executive Jack Warner, who has been implicated on numerous occasions for corruption and taking bribes in exchange for his votes and who is now banned for life from the sport, was trying to use his influence to find a job for the son of one of his bankers, Richard Sebro. He ended up emailing the chairman of the England 2018 World Cup Committee, Lord Triesman, to try and get Sebro a job with a football club somewhere England.
After a couple of mildly shady emails to Triesman, Warner eventually received a reply from England 2018 Director of Campaign Operations Jane Bateman, who said that she had found Sebro a summer job at Tottenham Hotspur.
From the Garcia Report, page 100:
Ms. Bateman notified Mr. Warner on June 24, 2009 that the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club would soon offer Mr. Sebro a summer job. Mr. Warner expressed gratitude, but also pressured England 2018 to continue monitoring Mr. Sebro’s employment situation. On June 30, Ms. Bateman explained to Mr. Warner, at his request, that the Tottenham job entailed one-week stints in various departments, to which Mr. Warner responded, “I thank you for this beginning, Jane, and do look fwd to a continuation in other areas and/or clubs.” Mr. Warner’s gratitude was short-lived. On July 9, he sent Lord Triesman an email, copied to Mr. Anson and Ms. Bateman, bearing the subject line “Richard Sebro”:
Chairman, I do wish to register my profound disappointment with the FA re its failure to assist Richard Sebro with gainful employment for a protracted period of time as I have kindly requested of the FA. A promise of a few days here and a few days there is not what I had in mind Chairman and then even that has been long in coming. While my disappointment is profound, possibly I should not have been surprised and do wish to advise that if this simple request of mine proves to be a difficulty of any kind to achieve I will understand.
The bid team quickly sought to reassure Mr. Warner of its commitment to helping Mr. Sebro. Ms. Bateman responded first, later on July 9, and explained that she was writing “on behalf of the Chairman, who is currently on leave.” She advised Mr. Warner that “I have spoken to Richard and he tells me that he is more than happy,” and she promised to “keep in regular touch with him to make sure that this remains the case.” That seemed to mollify Mr. Warner, who responded, “Jane, if Richard is happy, then so am I.” Lord Triesman nevertheless replied to Mr. Warner and the others the next day to register his willingness to address Mr. Warner’s complaints about Mr. Sebro’s employment. “I hope this is now Ok and I will ask Jane to keep me posted,” Lord Triesman wrote. “Let me know if you feel there’s a continuing problem.”
And Spurs weren’t the only club that gave employment to Sebro. Warner repeated the process just a year later, using similar emails and pressure to get Sebro a job at Aston Villa in 2010 and other benefits.
In a nutshell, then: in 2009 Tottenham Hotspur gave the son of Jack Warner’s banker a temporary job at the request of the England 2018 committee, which was done because the England committee wanted to curry favor with Warner in order to help secure his vote for England’s World Cup bid. The whole process was super shady. Basically, Spurs were mildly and obliquely involved in international football corruption.
What does this mean for Spurs? It sounds bad.
Thankfully, there’s probably not much to worry about if you’re Tottenham. The job that Sebro apparently received was temporary, limited in scope, and involved “one-week stints in various departments,” i.e. the kind of job you give to know-nothing sons of important people to mollify their parents or as a small favor to other important people. It’s unknown whether Spurs chairman Daniel Levy or other top Tottenham executives even knew that Sebro was ever there; this sounds like the kind of job that could be hired, supervised, and then dismissed by middle management at the club without the knowledge of the top brass.
But even if club executives did know about Sebro and his connection to Warner, it’s mildly embarrassing but pretty small potatoes. It’s certainly not anything to get worked up over and there’s practically zero chance that Spurs could get into trouble with FIFA for this.
In fact, Garcia himself points the finger more at Warner and the England 2018 committee in his report, in a statement that seems to imply that there was a much closer connection between the England committee and Warner than previously indicated. From Garcia’s conclusion, page 151:
It is clear from the above that Mr. Warner made numerous improper demands on England 2018, ranging from employment for friends, “development money,” sponsorships, and other benefits. Some of these demands were met and some were not. There is a prima facie case that Mr. Warner violated the [FIFA Code of Ethics].
... In many cases England 2018 accommodated or at least attempted to satisfy, the improper requests made by these Executive Committee members. While the bidding process itself, and the attitude of entitlement and expectation demonstrated by certain Executive Committee members in the exchanges discussed in detail above, place the bid team in a difficult position that fact does not excuse all of the conduct.
Anytime your football club is mentioned in a FIFA document that is all about corruption at the highest levels of world football, that’s pretty bad optics. Tottenham no doubt is already aware of what’s in there part of the Garcia Report, and if there was anything to worry about we probably would already know about it as well. This story elicits more along the lines of wry amusement than it does dangerous precedent or foreboding.
And while in retrospect nobody would be at all surprised if then-Spurs manager Harry Redknapp would have been involved in some sort of mildly shady quid pro quo with England 2018 or with FIFA, no Spurs officials are mentioned by name anywhere in the Garcia Report. It’s much more damaging to England’s 2018 bid committee than it is to Tottenham.
For what it’s worth, there will be much more written about the Garcia Report in upcoming days, but this initial summary from the Guardian suggests that while there were numerous irregularities, Garcia did not recommend that the World Cup 2018 and 2022 votes be annulled.