MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s bid for the 2022 World Cup never stood a chance because their officials had not understood that votes were secured in back rooms according to “commercial interests”, the country’s soccer supremo Frank Lowy has said.
The bid for the 2022 finals awarded to Qatar has come under renewed scrutiny after the arrests in Switzerland of 14 soccer and media executives in a corruption scandal that has rocked global soccer governing body FIFA.
Swiss authorities are probing the bidding process for 2022 and the 2018 tournament awarded to Russia, while other World Cups, including last year’s finals in Brazil and the 2010 edition in South Africa, are also under investigation by local authorities.
Australia’s failed bid is also being probed by national police, sparking calls from local media for Football Federation Australia (FFA) president Lowy to step down until it is cleared of any wrongdoing.
Lowy, however, said Australia was guilty only of being naive in campaigning for a vote he described as effectively pre-determined.
“On the subject, did we have a chance or didn’t we have a chance: As it turned out to be, it was a competition between various associations and some other associations ... nation states,” the 84-year-old shopping center magnate told Sky News on Tuesday.
“The states talk to each other about their commercial and diplomatic interests. They agreed between each other what they do for each other as part of those negotiations.
“We know that now. At that time none of us had any idea it was done in secret, so we really had no chance.
“Us and other nations, associations competing with nation states ... There was no chance for us to win — even if there was no corruption.”
Australia’s bid was criticized by FIFA’s ethics committee last year in a summary of its investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Australia spent A$42 million ($32.27 million/21 million pounds) of public funds on its bid but secured only a single vote.
A separate A$500,000 payment by the FFA for a soccer facility in Trinidad and Tobago has come under heavy scrutiny after it was misappropriated by former FIFA power-broker Jack Warner, who was among the soccer officials arrested on bribery charges last month.
Though FIFA’s World Cup bidding rules ban payments that might be intended to sway voting delegates, the governing body asks bidders to show their commitment to international development.
Lowy described that as a “contradiction” but conceded that Australia’s payment was made with a view to seeking Warner’s vote.
“We were trying to influence the whole world,” Lowy said.
“He was one of those people that we hoped was going to vote for us but I think there were a lot of other countries who thought that also because he made promises to them, but he made no promises to me.”
Nick Xenophon, a local lawmaker, has called for a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s bid.
Lowy said he would welcome an inquiry but had nothing new to share.
($1 = 1.3016 Australian dollars)
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Amlan Chakraborty