Australia cautious about 2022 vote re-run

SYDNEY - Australia remained cautious on Monday about the prospects of a FIFA inquiry into corruption in the bidding process for the hosting of the 2022 World Cup resulting in a re-run of the controversial vote.

Australia's A$45 million ($48 million) bid garnered just one vote when Qatar won the contest to host the world's biggest single sporting event last December in a ballot also contested by the United States, Japan and South Korea.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter last week responded to newspaper reports that two members of the executive committee were paid to vote for the Gulf State's bid by saying the whistleblower behind the allegations would be interviewed this week.

Blatter, who goes up against Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam in an election for the presidency of FIFA on June 1, has not ruled out a re-run of the vote but Football Federation Australia (FFA) was not about to pre-empt a decision.

"FFA has yet to seriously consider its position following the FIFA President's comments about the 2022 World Cup bidding process," an FFA spokesman said on Monday.

"If and when FIFA makes a decision about a review, FFA will make a decision on what is best for Australian football."

Sports minister Mark Arbib also sounded a cautionary note when asked about the prospects of a re-run over the weekend.

"We're not getting our hopes up that there will be a decision to have a new ballot," he told reporters. "I don't think we should get our hopes up yet.

"We need to have a chance for these allegations to be heard."

Arbib, who is expected to face questions in the Australian parliament on Tuesday about how the A$45 million was spent, said a new campaign should not cost any extra money.

"All the work has been done in terms of scoping the stadium, all the specifications, the technical work is complete," he added.

Frank Lowy, the octogenarian shopping centre tycoon who runs FFA and said executive committee members had "outright lied" to the Australian bid team, has yet to make public comment on the corruption allegations.

Even if there was to be a re-run, however, Australia would be far from favourites, as one newspaper columnist pointed out on Monday.

"Lost in the wash of last December's contentious vote was the fact that the Qataris weren't alone in giving Frank Lowy a black eye," Michael Cockerill wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"By the time the poll closed, the Americans had eight times as many votes as Australia. That's a lot of ground to make up."