Not another World Cup bid! This time it’s the women’s turn.
Football Federation Australia [FFA] chair Steven Lowy announced this week that Australia would bid for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged an upfront $1 million, with another $4 million in December if the bid has legs.
The amount is much less than the FFA’s 2022 World Cup bid, which cost taxpayers $45 million and returned just a solitary vote.
What is it about this country? Haven’t we learned from bitter experience about FIFA?
Staggeringly, the FFA and federal government want to do business again with these Swiss-based shonks.
The Qatar fiasco suggests that World Cups are awarded on the amount of money in bidders’ brown paper bags.
Bribes and kickbacks to FIFA officials seem all part of the bidding process.
Currently, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his sidekick Jerome Valcke face charges of criminal mismanagement in the Swiss courts, while the US Justice Department has indicted 40 companies and individuals for racketeering and money laundering.
Little seems to have changed under FIFA’s new boss, Gianni Infantino.
The Panama Papers allege that while director of UEFA’s legal services, Infantino signed off on media-rights deals with companies that offered bribes and kickbacks to football officials.
Despite staunch denials and tough-talk on reform, Infantino has wound back FIFA’s compliance mechanisms, introduced in response to the US Justice Department indictments.
Why would any reputable body – let alone a government – throw money at FIFA until it has cleaned up its act?
The Asian Football Confederation [AFC] seems no better.
Last April, a former member of the AFC executive and FIFA’s audit and compliance committee, Richard Lia, pleaded guilty to receiving almost $US1 million in bribes.
According to the Justice Department documents, one of Lia’s co-conspirators was the Kuwaiti royal, Sheik Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah.
A FIFA and IOC heavyweight, Ahmad was the alleged powerbroker behind Thomas Bach’s election to the IOC presidency in 2013.
Even if FIFA and the AFC were on the straight-and-narrow, Australia still lacks the institutional support to win the bid.
The FFA lost political clout in not supporting the AFC’s preferred candidate, Bahrain’s Sheik Salman, during FIFA’s 2016 presidential elections.
The FFA had good reasons.
Salman’s campaign was sullied by allegations of human rights abuses against dissident Bahraini footballers and athletes during the Arab Spring.
Last month saw the payback.
FFA director, Moya Dodd, was voted off FIFA’s decision-making council.
The former Matilda had championed reform and greater female representation.
For the 2023 event, Australia are likely to be bidding against AFC member, Japan, which has more political clout in the corridors of the Confederation and FIFA.
As we have seen in the past, bids aren’t won on big stadia, having a high-ranking team, or the gobbledygook that Melbourne is the ‘world’s sporting capital’.
They are won by playing FIFA’s brown paper bag game.
Surely, we don’t want to jump into bed with this mob after being fleeced on the 2022 World Cup bid.
The only redeeming feature is that this bid may claw back the ground women’s soccer lost to the AFLW, the Women’s Big Bash League and the Super Netball series.
Given the sudden proliferation of women’s sport, the FFA needs to reassert that Australia has a women’s soccer competition worth watching with world class players.
But this is a hefty price to pay for dealing with FIFA.
Surely the $5 million would be better spent on supporting the W-League.