• Australian football chief says 2022 World Cup race ‘not clean’

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    SYDNEY: Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy on Wednesday said the race for the 2022 World Cup was “not clean” and he has shared what he knows with authorities, including information on Jack Warner.

    “We ran a clean bid. I know that others did not, and I have shared what I know with the authorities, including Michael Garcia who undertook a two-year investigation into the 2022 World Cup bid,” he said in an open letter.

    Australia was vying to host the 2022 tournament, which was controversially awarded to Qatar, along with the United States, Japan and South Korea.

    Australia secured only one vote despite plowing more than Aus$40 million (US$31 million) into the bid and Lowy, the founder and head of global shopping centre empire Westfield, said it left a bitter taste.

    “On a personal level, since December 2, 2010, when Australia received just one vote in its World Cup bid, I have nursed a bitter grievance,” he said, without detailing what evidence he had.

    “We ran a clean bid and we are proud of that but it wasn’t a level playing field and therefore we didn’t win it. I will always be bitterly disappointed about the outcome.”

    His comments come with FIFA embroiled in two separate investigations by American and Swiss authorities into alleged rampant and long-running corruption within the organization.

    Several top FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich last week and accused by US investigators of taking tens of millions of dollars in bribes, while Sepp Blatter announced his resignation on Tuesday just days after being re-elected to a fifth term as FIFA president.

    One of the probes is looking into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

    One of those under investigation is Warner, a former FIFA vice president and head of CONCACAF, the governing body for the game in North and Central America and the Caribbean, who maintains his innocence.

    He has previously been accused of stealing Aus$500,000 from Australia’s 2022 bid, an incident detailed in a damning integrity report by CONCACAF in 2013.

    Lowy said Warner had a “reputation as a colourful character” and admitted Australia was naive in the way it ran its 2022 campaign.

    In his letter, he said CONCACAF asked for a Aus$4.0 million donation towards a centre of excellence in Warner’s Trinidad and Tobago, but the FFA and Australian bid team offered Aus$500,000.

    Lowy said the money was paid to CONCACAF but it was ultimately found that Warner “had committed fraud and misappropriated the funds”.

    “In other words he had stolen the money from CONCACAF. It also found other instances of wrongdoing by Warner over many years,” he said of the inquiry.

    “That initial inquiry by CONCACAF was taken over by FIFA and Michael Garcia, and again Australia provided information to Garcia. We also became aware that law enforcement authorities in the US were looking into the matter.

    “We asked CONCACAF to give our money back because it wasn’t used for the purpose we intended, and were advised by FIFA to wait until the inquiries were complete. Those inquiries are still ongoing.”

    Australia broke ranks with the Asian Football Confederation last week to vote against Blatter, to whom Lowy had been a long-time ally, and the mogul added that recent events were a watershed moment for the world sporting body.

    “Sepp Blatter’s resignation should open the door to major reform,” he said.

    “I say should because FIFA’s problems are deep-rooted and tangled in a culture that has developed over decades. It will take a united, concerted effort by its football associations to fix the mess.”

    AFP

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