FFA chief Frank Lowy has demanded FIFA compensate Australia for the $43 million spent on its World Cup bid after Qatar's plans for the 2022 tournament plunged into chaos.
Qatar controversially won the hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup despite official reports recommending against it on a number of grounds, including the unbearable summer heat.
At the time Qatari organisers promised to invent stadium-wide air conditioning - but since then a move to switching the tournament to the northern hemisphere's winter has gathered pace.
But such a change would hurt Australia's A-League - and has infuriated FFA officials who spent millions to bid against Qatar and won the approval of inspectors, only to be eliminated at the first round of voting.
Now FFA chairman Lowy has finally broken his silence on the Qatar debacle and come out swinging at plans to move it to winter...and warned FIFA not to rush its decision before a probe into Qatar's bid is complete.
“Better to let the independent investigative process run its natural course and then, with those issues settled, make a clear-eyed assessment about rescheduling and its consequences,” Lowy said.
He also demanded FIFA work out a compensation package for countries who bid against Qatar, including Australia.
Lowy said he had written to FIFA President Sepp Blatter in July to explain Australia’s position.
“Australia invested heavily in the World Cup process and the entire nation was behind the bid,” he said.
“Since December 2010 Australia has been careful not to let its misgivings about the process be interpreted as sour grapes.
“But now, with increasing speculation about a change that will impact on us as one of the bidding nations, and because our competition will be affected, we have made our position public.”
Lowy said there was a real risk of making a bad situation worse if FIFA did not take time to consult its Member Associations and consider the implications of switching the schedule.
He said two main groups would be affected – those nations, like Australia, that were required by FIFA’s own Bidding Agreement documents, to bid for the event based on it being staged during the northern summer; and those leagues around the world, like the A-League, which would be severely disrupted and suffer financial loss.
He said FIFA’s October 3 meeting should consider:
· If Ex-Co decides on a change in date, then they need a transparent process to examine the scheduling implications for all leagues and a method for appropriate compensation for those affected.
· An in-principle decision that fair compensation be paid to those nations that invested many millions, and national prestige, in bidding for a summer event.
· And that any final decision on a winter World Cup should only be made after the investigative chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, chaired by Michael Garcia, concludes its inquiries into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
If the Garcia investigation was to cast doubt on the 2022 bid process it would create a perfect storm of chaos and uncertainty for world football if FIFA had already altered the timing of the event, Lowy said.
He also told FIFA that the A-League was now finally gaining a foothold in the sporting landscape of Australia.
“Our season takes place during the Australian summer to avoid a clash with other local football codes, a move that was necessary because the A-League simply could not get access to the high standard stadiums required as they were being used by other codes during the Australian winter,” he said.
“If the World Cup were to be staged in the middle of our A-League season it would impact on our competition, not just for 2022, but for the seasons leading up to and beyond that date.
“Clubs, investors, broadcasters, players and fans would all be affected.
“FIFA has an opportunity now to make the best of a bad situation by embarking on a transparent and orderly approach, unlike the process that led to the original flawed decision in December 2010.
“FIFA champions the notion of ‘Fair Play’ and that principle should apply to the decisions it makes in the coming months.”
Blatter recently dismissed a backlash from other bidders for the 2022 event about it being moved to the winter by insisting the bid tender said the traditional June/July timeframe was just a guide and subject to change.