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Australia's 2022 WC bid in spotlight

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iol spt pic World cup trophy june 02

REUTERS

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will send the national team to Brazil in hopes of inspiring them to qualify for future World Cups. Photo: Nacho Doce

Sydney - A former top Australian football official Tuesday said that “development” grants given to corruption-riddled overseas football bodies as part of the country's bid for the 2022 World Cup must be examined.

Bonita Mersiades, the corporate affairs head for Football Federation Australia when the bid race was run, said there were similarities with the allegations against a leading Qatari football official.

Britain's Sunday Times has alleged that Mohamed bin Hammam, a former Fifa vice president from Qatar, paid more than US$5 million to officials around the world before the 2010 vote that awarded the 2022 event to the tiny Gulf state.

Qatar's 2022 football World Cup organisers deny any wrongdoing.

Mersiades told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that questions also needed to be asked about Australia's bid.

“Some of the evidence published in relation to Qatar was that some of the money was given to development projects - we gave money for development projects, we gave US$4 million to the Oceania Football Confederation for sports development,” she said.

“That was via the government, in and of itself there was nothing wrong with sports development projects, but the question for Michael Garcia was, was there a vote attached to it,” she added, referring to the man heading a Fifa probe into corruption.

“If the answer to that is yes, then it's very hard to argue that that activity is very much different from what Bin Hammam is alleged to have been doing.”

FFA chief executive David Gallop on Monday told Australian radio that his organisation had been “heavily involved” in Fifa's corruption investigation and had provided documents and interviews to Garcia.

The top United States lawyer said on Monday his investigation would be completed by June 9.

In the original December 2010 contest to host the tournament, Qatar received 11 votes, South Korea four, the United States and Japan three each and Australia one in the first elimination round.

Qatar went on to beat the United States 14 votes to eight in the fourth round.

Mersiades said that people in football organisations around the world had allegedly received money from Bin Hammam, including Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean.

“Certainly, the people that Australia was giving money to were very much similar to the people Bin Hammam was giving money to,” she told the ABC.

“Jack Warner was one of the key ones. Whenever Fifa corruption comes up, so does Jack Warner's name.”

Warner, a former influential Fifa vice-president, resigned from all football posts in 2011 after he was accused of facilitating bribes to members of the Caribbean football union (CONCACAF) on behalf of Bin Hammam.

In 2013, a damning integrity report by CONCACAF said a US$462 000 donation the FFA made to the Caribbean soccer organisation as part of its 2022 bid - to improve a centre of excellence - was allegedly stolen by Warner.

At the time, FFA said the cash was donated with “complete transparency” and Australian football authorities only became aware it had allegedly been misused when the CONCACAF report came out.

The FFA on Tuesday said it had no comment on Mersiades' remarks.

Sapa-AFP


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