FFA chief executive James Johnson has been left fuming at England’s “disrespectful” snubbing of the trans-Tasman Women’s World Cup bid.
Australia’s football boss was exasperated after the English FA joined a UEFA block vote in supporting Colombia’s bid to host the 2023 World Cup at Friday’s FIFA Council.
The decision came despite the Australia and New Zealand bid scoring 4.1 out of five in FIFA’s evaluation report compared to a 2.9 total for the South American nation’s bid.
UEFA’s political manoeuvring had little impact on the final margin, as the trans-Tasman bid won the vote 22-13, with CONMEBOL (South America), the only other confederation to support Colombia.
However the move could have had disastrous consequences had the CAF (Africa) or CONCACAF (North America) delegates backed the South American bid.
Either the seven CAF votes or the five CONCACAF votes would have been enough to get Colombia the 18 votes needed to win the race.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked, partly in jest, to weigh in on the English FA’s vote and whether a ‘Tim Tam tariff’ should be considered.
“I’ll have a chat to Boris (Johnson) at some point. I’m sure he’ll make it up to me in some other way,” Mr Morrison responded.
While the Prime Minister was able to laugh it off, English FA chairman Greg Clarke’s decision to vote for Colombia won’t be easily forgotten by Johnson.
“I actually don’t find it very funny,” Johnson told Fox Sports.
“I think that was quite disrespectful to be perfectly honest with you.
“It was a process that was, I think, run very well by FIFA … we scored very highly on a report that was an objective report.
“We know now what the voting was like, and I must say we are disappointed with the way that the FA voted.”
Clarke’s likely decision became apparent hours before the vote when reports emerged that he had refused to accept a phone call from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
FIFA chairman Gianni Infantino, who voted for the trans-Tasman bid, was surprised to see a block vote in favour of Colombia from football’s most powerful confederation but refused to criticise the decision, calling it “democracy”.
Despite Europe’s snub, Johnson was happy with FIFA’s voting process, which has been revamped following the controversial decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup.
“The way that the reports were drafted, and the way the scoring went I think was reflective of the work that certainly our bid had done,” he said.
“There’s always a little bit of angst when you get into the political part of the process but I think it’s a fair process, the voting will often reflect the bid evaluation report and I think that’s where we landed.”
The other pivotal moment for the trans-Tasman bid was Japan’s decision to withdraw from the hosting race days before the vote.
That ensured all seven delegates from the Asian Football Confederation backed Australia and New Zealand, with Japan also able to cast their vote for the trans-Tasman bid rather than recusing themselves.
UEFA said in a statement their vote for Colombia was an attempt to try to increase the growth of the women’s game in South America and their block vote was a solidarity agreement by the European members of the FIFA Council.
“It was a choice between two countries – Australia and New Zealand – where women’s football is already strongly established, and a continent where it still has to be firmly implanted and has a huge development potential.”