So if Qatar is stripped of the 2022 World Cup Australia is going to throw its hat in the ring again, according to CEO David Gallop. To be fair by that stage this may be Australia’s best way of qualifying,- as host, – if the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) continue to refuse to invest in the grassroots and semi professional areas of the game.
To many it would be another case of throwing good money after bad. As has been said many times before, why do the FFA not focus on hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup first and then after showing what they were able to do with that event re-evaluate whether they can indeed host the biggest sporting event in the World?
What seems incredible is that some Government representatives, State and Federal wish to see Australia throw more money at the prospect of trying to host the World Cup; even though there are many factors going against Australia, the timing of the games in June, the different time zones across the country and biggest of all that of stadia. Russia will face a similar problem with time differences in 2018, but being based in Europe, the main television market, it will not be such an issue.
There are many members of the public who were understandably not happy that the FFA were given $45million with which to try and win the World Cup hosting rights in the first place, and these people and many others, due to the current economy of the nation would be far from happy to see the game given yet more money.
As much as fans around the world are jumping up and down at the revelations in the UK newspaper the Sunday Times that former FIFA vice-president and Qatari national Mohamed bin Hammam covertly paid several African officials up to $US5 million in cash through his private company to secure support for their winning bid, Australia’s bid was far from being above scrutiny.
The FFA has been involved in FIFA’s integrity investigation into corruption and has provided documents and interviews to the chief investigator of FIFA’s ethics committee, American lawyer Michael Garcia.
Mr Garcia has probed Australia’s interaction with the two allegedly corrupt former FIFA officials, Jack Warner and Reynald Temarii, who are also at the centre of allegations of corruption involving Qatar’s successful 2022 World Cup hosting bid.
Mr Garcia has interviewed the FFA’s former chief financial officer, Ian Lewis, who it is believed left the FFA in 2010 after it became clear that he was not going to be able to oversee the FFA’s multimillion-dollar World Cup expenditure. It is also believed that Mr Garcia recently flew former Football Federation Australia corporate affairs manager Bonita Mersiades to the USA for a confidential interview on the way Australia went about winning votes for its bid. Ms Mersiades also left the FFA early in the bid process.
It has also been revealed that the FFA has failed to call in the federal police to investigate the recent findings of a separate 2013 inquiry that came to the conclusion that the allegedly corrupt former FIFA executive, Jack Warner, stole $US462,000 in funds the FFA gave him to upgrade a stadium.
Let us not forget that also the FFA hired two lobbyists to assist them in winning votes, Peter Hargitay and Fedor Radmann who were allegedly vouched for to the FFA by SBS football correspondent Les Murray, a member of FFAs Ethics committee and FFA Chairman Frank Lowy, according to investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, a specialist on corruption in football and especially FIFA.
According to a spreadsheet leaked to the press in 2010 Mr Hargitay was allegedly paid $1.35million by the FFA and was due another $2.54million had the bid been successful. Mr Radmann’s work for the Australian bid, was purportedly to earn him up to $3.49million via a German consulting firm. He was entitled to a further $3.99million had Australia’s bid been successful. In addition the FFA allegedly paid Mr Radmann’s business partner, Andreas Abold, an additional $3million for production and bid advice on Australia’s World Cup bid book
At that time it was revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald Newspaper that “The government was told by the FFA that $11.37 million was going to “consultants/agencies”. But the FFA prepared a more detailed spreadsheet for its own executives, specifically outlining how this figure would be divided into fees and bonuses for Mr Hargitay and Mr Radmann’s international “advocacy” campaign.” The Sydney Morning Herald also claimed that “the government was not told details about plans to give $6.5 million in taxpayer funds to football bodies in Africa, Asia and Oceania. The document states that the FFA’s bid strategy will give large grants to “international football development”.”
It will be very interesting to hear the outcome of Mr Garcia’s investigation, the allegations will be raised at the June 10 FIFA congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It could well be that some of the mud thrown at Qatar lands on Australia and could put Chairman of the FFA Frank Lowy in an untenable position, after all his CEO is no longer part of the organisation and he was captain of the ship at the time. It was his former CEO Ben Buckley who was quoted as saying that the FFA’s bid required Mr Hargitay and Mr Radmann, to be engaged, the FFA needed “the input and expertise of international consultants with specific experience in the area of bidding for major football events”.
That expertise managed to win just two votes.
It would be fantastic for Australia to host a World Cup, but at this point in time the game and the country would be better off letting bygones be bygones. Those charged with trying to win the event made a monumental mess of it, and could end up tarnishing the country’s reputation. Let us concentrate on Junior World Cup events and the Women’s World cup for the time being and revisit the Men’s tournament when the dust has settled. As singer Paul Kelly said “From little things big things grow.” It is time egos were put away and the FFA looked to grow the game from the bottom rather than going for the jackpot at the top end, with what was essentially a monumental gamble.
As for the Government supporting a renewed bid, they may well have trouble garnering support following the the recent budget and the country’s financial status. There would be many who would rather see sums like the $45million already spent given to improving health and education and it would be hard to argue against such an argument.