Mayne-Nicholls with Qatar 2022 bid chairman Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani in Doha in September 2010 (Getty)

(WFI) FIFA adjudicators say former 2018/2022 World Cup bid inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who billed Qatar as “high-risk”, breached four ethics violations resulting in his seven-year ban from football.

The federation’s top judge Hans-Joachim Eckert on Thursday notified the former head of the Chilean football association of the grounds for the ban handed down last July.

Mayne-Nicholls, who was widely acclaimed for his work as head of the FIFA inspection committee for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. He has previously fended off accusations that he sought favours from the Qataris, saying he did nothing more than inquire about unpaid internships for his son and job opportunities for his brother-in-law at Qatar’s Aspire Academy during the bidding process. Nothing ever came of the requests.

But FIFA’s ethics committee saw it very differently.

According to today’s statement, he was found guilty of infringing rules governing general rules of conduct, loyalty, conflicts of interest and offering and accepting gifts and other benefits.

“As established by the adjudicatory chamber, the most serious breach committed by the official was the violation of article 20 of the FCE [FIFA Code of Ethics] on offering and accepting gifts and other benefits,” FIFA’s adjudicatory panel said on Thursday.

“This provision aims at guaranteeing that the requirement for FIFA – and its bodies and officials – to behave with integrity and neutrality is upheld at all times.”

FIFA said that in his capacity as chairman of the FIFA evaluation committee for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, Mayne-Nicholls “had a special obligation with regard to the integrity and neutrality of his work.”

“Confidence in the work of the bid evaluation group was especially crucial in order for it to properly exercise its powers and duties,” FIFA’s judging chamber said, detailing why Mayne-Nicholls’ requests to the Qataris for what it termed “personal favours” – made days after the inspection visit – was considered improper conduct.

“By making the requests, Mr Mayne-Nicholls did not act in FIFA’s interests and ignored his responsibility as a high-ranking FIFA official, someone who was expected to act with utmost neutrality and integrity, in order to pursue his own personal interests,” FIFA said.

Mayne-Nicholls may have reason to feel aggrieved at being punished so harshly, as he appears only to have made inquiries to the Qataris from which nothing materialized.

Critical of World Cup Hosts

Russia and Qatar secured World Cup hosting rights in December 2010.

But Mayne-Nicholls had not given either an easy ride in his summaries of on-site inspections and his final evaluation dossier on all nine bidders for both tournaments that was meant to help the nearly two dozen FIFA ExCo members make up their minds.

In September 2010, two months before the FIFA vote, Mayne-Nicholls cast doubt on whether a country Qatar’s size could host the 2022 tournament in comments made after his team’s three-day inspection of the Gulf bid. He said the Middle East nation’s size “would pose a number of logistical challenges”.

On his inspection team’s visit to Russia, Mayne-Nicholls praised the country’s 2018 World Cup plans but warned that with so many stadiums to build from scratch and huge investment necessary to upgrade transport infrastructure there was no time to lose in preparations.

In the final 40-page reports on each bid released in November 2010, Mayne-Nicholls was fairly critical of both Russia and Qatar. Russia’s transport was deemed “high risk”. Qatar’s bid was graded a “high overall operational risk”, with Mayne-Nicholls citing the “logistical” problems a major concern and the bid marked as “high risk” for team facilities.

Mayne-Nicholls could lodge an appeal with the FIFA Appeal Committee and if unsuccessful take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

FIFA’s ethics judge has recently handed down eight-year bans for outgoing president Sepp Blatter and former UEFA president Michel Platini, as well as a six-year ban for Korea’s former FIFA presidential candidate Chung Mong-joon. FIFA’s former secretary general, sacked Wednesday by FIFA, faces a nine-year ban for seven ethics violations related to a series of allegations of corruption and financial wrongdoing.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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