Australia bid team has clean hands, says Lowy

Australia conducted a clean bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and rejects assertions to the contrary, Football Federation Australia Chairman Frank Lowy said on Friday.

Lowy was responding to the FIFA Ethics Committee findings purporting to summarise an undisclosed corruption report into the handling of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid process.

Qatar (2022) and Russia (2018) were cleared of wrongdoing in the disputed summary.

Investigator Michael Garcia, who undertook a two-year inquiry into corruption claims, said the 42-page summary of his 430-page report contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations".

All nine nations bidding to host the two World Cups were under review and Australia and England were both found wanting.

But Lowy rejected the criticisms.

“FFA did its best to run a competitive and compliant bid and to do it wherever possible hand-in-hand with the Australian Government, with the customary government oversight,” he said.

“We also involved, wherever possible, other bodies such as UNICEF and FIFA itself. In addition, the financial management of the bid funds were routinely reported to Government and reviewed by independent external auditors.

“I made it clear to all involved in our bid that we would run a clean campaign and I stressed this objective at every opportunity.”

Australia, who were up against Qatar, were criticised for attempting to curry favour with disgraced former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, and pouring money into CONCACAF development programs.

In relation to the football development programs, Lowy said that the Australian bid was encouraged by FIFA to take every opportunity to demonstrate Australia’s commitment to football, especially in developing regions.

“It’s clear that this led us to be misled in particular relating to a payment made to CONCACAF which was later revealed to have been misappropriated,” Lowy said.

“In hindsight, there are many things we might have done differently and we remain disappointed by our experience of the World Cup bidding process.”

Lowy stressed that the Australian bid had co-operated fully with the Garcia inquiry and in August this year received Mr Garcia’s written thanks for this cooperation.

FFA will now await advice from FIFA on the next steps in the process following the apparent dispute between chairmen of the FIFA Ethics Committee’s Adjudicatory and Investigatory chambers.