The chairman of Football Federation Australia says bidding for the 2022 World Cup awarded to Qatar was not clean, explaining in an extraordinary open letter Wednesday how he felt Australia never had a chance to be given hosting rights.
The day after FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced he was resigning his post and would call a new election within nine months, FFA chairman Frank Lowy said “world football might just be at the dawn of a new era.”
Australia went against the agreed position of the Asian Football Confederation to support Blatter in last Friday’s presidential election and instead voted for Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein. The 79-year-old Blatter was returned to a fifth term as president despite a week dominated by arrests of top FIFA officials over corruption allegations.
And while the Asian Football Confederation was offering little comment on Wednesday to Blatter’s surprise resignation, billionaire businessman Lowy, one of Australia’s richest persons, was scathing in his criticism of both FIFA and the bid process for 2022.
“Sepp Blatter’s resignation should open the door to major reform. I say should because FIFA’s problems are deep-rooted and tangled in a culture that has developed over decades,” Lowy said. “It will take a united, concerted effort by its football associations to fix the mess.”
Lowy said that since December, 2010 when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup and Australia received just one vote, “I have nursed a bitter grievance.”
“We ran a clean bid,” Lowy said. “I know that others did not, and I have shared what I know with the authorities, including Michael Garcia who undertook a 2-year investigation into the 2022 World Cup bid.”
Lowy acknowledged Australia made mistakes in its bid, including the hiring of European-based consultants “who ultimately proved less than effective to say the least.”
He also defended a $500,000 payment made by Australia to the CONCACAF confederation during the bidding process, ostensibly for funding of a feasibility study into a Centre of Excellence in Trinidad and Tobago.
Lowy said subsequent inquiries “found (CONCACAF president) Jack Warner had committed fraud and misappropriated the funds” and said Australia only agreed to a smaller payment rather than the $4 million that was requested.
“We asked CONCACAF to give our money back because it wasn’t used for the purpose we intended, and were advised by FIFA to wait until the inquiries were complete,” Lowy said. “Those inquiries are still ongoing.”
“We ran a clean bid and we are proud of that but it wasn’t a level playing field and therefore we didn’t win it. I will always be bitterly disappointed about the outcome.”
Australia’s sports minister, Sussan Ley, said in Canberra that Australia would not bid to host the World Cup until the sport’s governing body can be trusted with taxpayer funds.
“Sport is ultimately about the participants, fans and the love of the game, not individual interests, and corruption of any form has no place,” Ley said. She would not comment on whether Australia had any chance of recovering the $40 million spent on its World Cup bid.
The AFC released a brief statement on Wednesday about Blatter’s decision to stand down, saying: “The AFC is closely monitoring the situation, and will discuss with its member associations and sister confederations in order to find the best way forward for both FIFA and world football.”