Australian authorities have begun an inquiry into their nation’s failed bid to host the 2022 World Cup as the backlash from the FIFA scandal continues.
According to Reuters, they are probing whether funds used to support the bid, which received only one vote before the tournament was controversially awarded to Qatar, were in any way misappropriated.
The Football Federation Australia (FFA) made a $500,000 (£325,000/€441,000) donation to the Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) for a football facility in Trinidad and Tobago.
This payment has come under scrutiny after Australian bid team member Bonita Mersiades, alongside Senator Nick Xenophon, sent a letter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in which they asked for it to be investigated.
“The AFP is currently evaluating allegations of the misappropriation of funds from Football Federation Australia to FIFA,” a police spokesperson said.
FFA President Frank Lowy attempted to allay fears about the payment, which was then allegedly embezzled by Jack Warner, the former CONCACAF President who has been at the centre of bribery and corruption allegations for many years, in an open letter.
“The donation which has received most attention was to CONCACAF – the north and central American football association (sic),” the letter read.
“This was to fund a feasibility study to develop its Centre of Excellence in Trinidad & Tobago.
“The man behind the centre was the President of CONCACAF, Jack Warner, whose reputation as a ‘colourful character’ was well known.
“When CONCACAF contacted us to say they were conducting an inquiry into its accounts, we provided information about our donation.
“That inquiry – conducted by 2 former judges and a senior accountant – found that Jack 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.”
The development comes after it was announced yesterday that the FBI are investigating the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as part of their inquiries, which saw them indict 14 FIFA officials last week on chargers of racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.
It represents another blow to world football’s governing body, which is still reeling from the shock announcement that current President Sepp Blatter will step down from his role just days after being re-elected at an explosive FIFA Congress.
Lowy maintains his organisation did nothing wrong in their attempts to secure the hosting rights for the 2022 tournament, admitting that they made mistakes but that they ran a “clean bid”.
“On a personal level, since 2 December 2010 when Australia received just one vote in its World Cup bid, I have nursed a bitter grievance,” the letter read.
“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.”
The investigations into the 2022 tournament throw the possibility of a re-vote back into the limelight, however, it remains extremely unlikely that the tournament will be stripped from Qatar.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Inside the Games.