SYDNEY – Australian media took FIFA to task Saturday over its contested ethics report on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, but also lashed Australia’s handling of the process.
FIFA this week cleared Qatar and Russia of corruption and ruled out a re-vote for the tournaments despite widespread allegations of wrongdoing.
However its own investigator Michael Garcia (pic) has lodged an appeal after complaining his report into alleged World Cup corruption was misrepresented.
“Not for the first time, FIFA stands condemned of shamelessly laughing in the face of the people they are supposed to represent following the release of what appears to be a watered-down version of an investigation into the bidding process to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups,” The Australian thundered.
The FIFA investigation into Qatar’s successful bid for 2022 cleared the host of wrongdoing, but accused Australia of breaking ethics rules, trying to buy votes and then attempting a cover-up.
The Sydney Morning Herald said after a lifetime of achievement, the 2022 World Cup bid is a scar FFA chief Frank Lowy, 84, “will take to his grave.”
“Principally, and what seemed abundantly clear at the time, Lowy’s trust in three particular consultants was badly misplaced,” the Herald said.
“Two of them, according to Hans Joachim Eckert (ethics committee chairman), have a ‘prima-facie case’ to answer in terms of breaking the bidding rules.”
Australia’s top football body Friday rejected assertions of impropriety in canvassing support for its failed bid and said it had been “disappointed” by the process.
Australia spent almost Aus$46 million (US$40 million) on its attempt to host the event but received just one vote.
FIFA’s report found Australia tried to divert government funds intended for development projects in Africa “towards initiatives in countries with ties to FIFA executive committee members with the intention to advance its bid”.
The Australian daily said the FFA made fundamental errors.
“Make no mistake, Australia was a small player in the bids for the World Cup, but at the very minimum they stand accused of stupidity in their dealings regarding the bid,” it said.
“Its lack of due diligence regarding the hiring of a number of consultants to help with the bid was astounding.
“And let’s not forget, FFA spent almost Aus$46 million of taxpayers’ money on a bid that got one, lousy vote.”
Bonita Mersiades, former head of communications for the 2022 World Cup bid and revealed as a whistleblower in the FIFA ethics committee probe, said FFA fired her early in 2010 after bid consultants had asked for her removal.
“I had been asking questions about what we were up to,” she said. “There were so many things in the Australian bid that didn’t add up, that didn’t make sense.
“Others used to joke around the management table about the brown paper bags that were needed to win the World Cup bid.
“There was no doubt the World Cup bid wasn’t about who had the best argument to host it. That’s not what it was about.” â€“ AFP