With Qatar’s position as hosts of the 2022 World Cup in jeopardy and Fifa rocked by the latest string of corruption allegations, reports have now emerged suggesting the Australian bid to win the same tournament has also been the subject of a recent probe.
There have been calls from senior figures in football around the world to have the process opened up to a revote if reports in the Sunday Times – that Fifa officials took a total of £3 million in exchange for backing Qatar’s bid – prove to be accurate.
Australian soccer chief David Gallop has been among the latest figures to wade into the controversy, and today refused to rule out the possibility of his country re-entering the competition to host the event if Qatar is stripped of the role.
But if it does, Football Federation Australia (FFA) may face its own set of questions over the bidding strategy it used before the decision was made back in 2010.
According to reports from The Age, Fifa’s ethics investigator Michael Garcia has recently flown a former FFA employee out to the US to question her confidentially about Australia’s conduct.
Bonita Mersiades, who was the association’s corporate affairs manager at the time of the bid, told The Age that the Australian association has previously tried to avoid exposing “international development” grants the FFA allegedly gave to overseas football bodies in the run up to the 2010 vote.
The Age reported that the FFA made a $462,000 (£276,000) payment to the allegedly-corrupt former Fifa executive Jack Warner – who, according to the Sunday Times, also received money from Qatar’s Mohamed Bin Hammam.
Ms Mersiades is reported to have said: “The revelations in The Sunday Times about the way Bin Hammam used hospitality, gifts, perks, and upgrades of stadiums to win bid support has parallels with the manner in which Australia used some of its funds during its bidding campaign.”
Speaking about the broader Fifa investigation on Monday, the FFA’s Mr Gallop said: “We’ve been heavily involved in this now for many months in terms of the investigation that Mr Garcia is carrying out.” The Age did not carry a response from the FFA to its latest report, and the association was not immediately available for comment.
Meanwhile, Mr Garcia is due to meet with Qatari representatives tonight in Oman, where the under-fire bid team has said it will “take whatever steps are necessary to defend the integrity of Qatar’s bid.
Yesterday Fifa’s vice-president Jim Boyce said Mr Garcia’s investigation, which predates the Sunday Times revelations, has his and the governing body’s “100 per cent” backing, and that if it was decided a revote was needed he would support it.
In the investigation by The Sunday Times, the newspaper claims to have obtained millions of secret documents from a Fifa insider that suggest the decision to grant Qatar the 2022 World Cup was influenced by payments made by disgraced former Fifa vice-president Mohammed Bin Hammam.
According to the Sunday Times report, the secret documents show a campaign of corruption, which saw Hammam pay out millions of pounds in order to secure support for the Qatari bid from Football Associations across the world.
Fifa executive committee members, government ministers and football associations have denied any wrongdoing.
Bin Hammam, who was previously the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president, was removed from Fifa after it was alleged he had used money to influence votes during his campaign to become Fifa President in 2011.
The paper also claims that another benefactor of Bin Hammam’s campaigning is the controversial former Chief of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association Jack Warner. Warner has denied these claims saying that they are “baseless allegations based on innuendoes” and said the money he received from Bin Hammam was to help with losses suffered during an earthquake in China.
According to The Sunday Times, they have evidence that Warner had more than $1.6m funnelled into his accounts by Bin Hammam, including $450,000 for his vote.
The Qatar bidding committee has always strenuously denied that Bin Hammam actively lobbied on their behalf in the lead up to the vote in December 2010.