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Australia slammed in FIFA report on World Cup bidding
The release of a report into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 football World Cup tournaments has been highly critical of the conduct of Football Federation Australia (FFA).
The 2014 report by independent ethics investigator Michael J. Garcia was finally released by world football governing body FIFA having been leaked by a German newspaper. FIFA had previously only published a 42-page summary of his findings, released by its then-ethics judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert which had upset Garcia, now an Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, who said the reduced document misrepresented his work.
While the full 430-page dossier does not contain the explosive revelations some had suspected, it does cast doubt over the conduct of how the FFA set out to win support of then-key FIFA delegates in its attempt to secure the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
More than $45 million dollars was committed by the Federal Government in support of the failed bid, which secured one solitary vote from 22 voting members.
While the key findings have been known for some time, the report contradicts repeated assertions by the FFA and its former Chairman Frank Lowy and then Chief Executive Ben Buckley, currently the Chairman of the North Melbourne Football Club, that Australia's bid to host the World Cup wasn't tainted by corruption.
The report details "strong evidence that FFA made improper payments intended to influence the vote of an executive committee member" on the FIFA panel deciding who should host the World Cup.
While Buckley, who led Australia's bid, and Lowy are not implicated in any corruption, the Garcia report details new evidence that shows the pair variously supported practices that appear to have breached World Cup bidding rules and, in the case of Buckley, suggest the FFA was prepared to make improper offers to secure the votes of FIFA delegates.
The report is highly critical of the FFA's hiring of German businessman Fedor Radmann as a consultant, not least because it was known he had a close relationship with FIFA delegate Franz Beckenbauer, whose vote Australia was chasing.
Garcia said the evidence he uncovered "suggest efforts by Australia 2022, its consultants, and Mr Beckenbauer to conceal certain key relationships", adding “in structuring its contract with Mr Radmann, Australia 2022 sought to create an appearance of distance between the bid team and Mr Beckenbauer's close associate.”
The report is also scathing of FFA consultant Peter Hargitay, who along with Radmann was paid large fees by FFA and who had close links to FIFA officials, whose support was sought by Australia, including former FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Garcia also revealed that leading football broadcasters Les Murray, who was on FIFA's ethics committee, leaked confidential information to Hargitay, who then leaked it to Lowy.
Here, the report stated "on January 7, 2009, FIFA ethics committee member Les Murray forwarded Mr Hargitay an email he had sent to the chair of the ethics committee, Sebastian Coe, asking to discuss potentially investigating certain conduct by England's bid team. Mr Hargitay then forwarded the email to Australia 2022 Chairman Frank Lowy along with the message: 'Boom. Here we go:):)' "
"The email communications show that Mr Hargitay, who had a lucrative contract with the Australian bid team, executed his strategy of using his purported relationship with President Blatter and other high-ranking FIFA officials to create the appearance that he was influencing the bidding process."
"His communications with FIFA officials reflect inappropriate denigration of other bids and show that he obtained confidential internal FIFA ethics committee correspondence. That misconduct was exacerbated when he forwarded those communications to the bid team members in order to demonstrate his "insider" status. His actions gave the appearance, at least to his employer, that he was improperly influencing the process."
Murray, now retired, has told the ABC that he denies the allegations.
The report is also damning of the way the FFA sought to contribute funds to football projects in developing countries in which certain FIFA delegates resided or which were linked to the personal interests of FIFA chiefs.
Garcia details evidence suggesting the FFA was warned by one of its own senior managers, John Boultbee, about concerns surrounding a request by FIFA Vice President Jack Warner for funds to support a football ‘Centre of Excellence’ (COE) in his home nation of Trinidad.
The FFA contributed $500,000 to the project, although it was later revealed these funds were placed into a bank account controlled by Warner, who most likely stole them.
Garcia was also scathing of the FFA's promises to support projects in Africa and Oceania.
The report states "these examples of 'football development' reveal a disturbing pattern.
"FFA's approach to funding development projects in Africa and elsewhere is a further unfortunate example of bid teams using money that should be awarded based upon humanitarian considerations to curry favour with officials eligible to vote on December 2, 2010.
"The bidding guidelines requiring candidates to support development efforts cannot be fairly read to encourage such behaviour. FFA's statement that there was 'uncertainty as to how to demonstrate that commitment' is not credible. Far from seeming 'uncertain', Australia 2022 appears to have reached the firm conclusion that it could best 'demonstrate (its) commitment' by targeting development projects in areas home to FIFA executive committee members."
The FFA has responded to the release of the report, advising that it "notes" its release.
In a statement it highlighted that the report says the FFA provided “full and valuable co-operation” to the inquiry and former FFA officials involved with the bid co-operated with this and other inquiries into the bid process over the past several years.
The statement added "the report does not raise substantive new matters that have not already been the subject of other inquiries and/or media coverage since 2009/2010. It does, however, contain further detail such as email correspondence provided to the inquiry by FFA. The report also states that 'the Investigatory Chamber does not intend to pursue formal investigatory proceedings against any individual bid team member'.”
Click here to view the report in full.
Image: The FFAs' FIFA World Cup bid involved the Sydney Harbour Bridge (top) and then Prime Minister Julia Gillard (middle).
13th June 2017 - AUSTRALIA TO BID FOR FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2023
29th August 2012 - INVESTIGATION INTO BIDDING PROCESS FOR FIFA 2018 AND 2022 WORLD CUPS
7th April 2011 - FFA DROPS WORLD CUP BID LIBEL ACTION
28th December 2010 - BBC REPORT BLASTS FFA’S ‘DIRTY’ WORLD CUP BID
3rd December 2010 - QATAR WINS 2022 WORLD CUP BID
18th October 2010 - FIFA FACES CALL TO DELAY WORLD CUP BID VOTE AFTER CORRUPTION CLAIMS
6th July 2010 - FFA SEEKS DAMAGES FROM THE AGE
1st July 2010 - BUCKLEY DEFENDS AUSTRALIA’S FIFA WORLD CUP BID
19th May 2010 - WORLD CUP STADIA AND INFRASTRUCTURE TO COST $2.48 BILLION
3rd February 2009 - AUSTRALIA ENTERS RACE FOR FIFA WORLD CUP
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