Former Football Federation Australia official Bonita Mersiades says questions have to be asked about Australia’s 2022 World Cup bid, and that it is likely FIFA investigator Michael Garcia is looking at it as part of his probe into the 2022 bid process.
Mersiades, who was head of corporate affairs for the FFA when the bid race was going on, told ABC’s 7:30 that there were similarities between the Australian bid and allegations being made against a leading Qatari football official who was not linked officially to his country’s bid.
The Sunday Times has published a series of allegations into Qatar’s successful 2022 bid, including mention of a $5 million slush fund from now-banned Asian Football Confederation chief Mohamed Bin Hammam.
Bin Hammam was banned from world football in 2011 after being caught bribing voters in his attempt to be elected FIFA president.
Investigator Michael Garcia is conducting a probe into the Qatar bid, and announced on Tuesday that he will complete his investigation by June 9, with a report to follow six weeks later.
Asked if people could be sure that Australia’s bid was clean, Mersiades said: “Well that’s a matter that probably Michael Garcia may be looking at, as he is looking at all the bidders, not just Qatar, not just Russia, who won 2018 but all the bidders.
“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 $4 million to the Oceania Football Confederation for sports development.
“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, and 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.”
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 said.
“Jack Warner was one of the key ones. Whenever FIFA corruption comes up, so does Jack Warner’s name.
“Australia gave $500,000 to Trinidad and Tobago – which is where Jack Warner’s from – for the upgrade of a stadium.
“That ended up in Jack Warner’s personal bank account.
“(Bin Hammam was) very close to (former FFA chief) Frank Lowy in that they called each other brothers.
“Certainly one of the consultants that Australia engaged (for the World Cup bid) was also very close to Bin Hammam, and Jack Warner and (Oceania delegate) Reynald Temarii and others, and one of the reasons we engaged him was because of that closeness.”
African delegates key to 2022 bids
Another area of possible questions related to voting delegates from Africa.
“Africa was a key target for all the bidders, because they couldn’t bid at all, so they had four votes that were on offer, and it’s fair to say that all the bidders targeted those African voters,” Mersiades said.
“Australia was among them (who targeted Africa). Amos Adamu, who was subsequently suspended, Jacques Anouma from Cote D’Ivoire, and Issa Hayatou from Cameroon were all people that Australia was keen to get close to.
“We’re not saying that (Australia’s dealings with these men were corrupt), we’re saying that there are questions that can be raised about it.”
A number of figures from the football world have called for a re-vote of the 2022 World Cup decision in the wake of the Sunday Times allegations.
Mersiades told ABC she believed there should be a re-run.
“I think the only way that football fans and players … the only way that any of us can be satisfied that the outcome of the vote is clean and clear, is to re-run the vote.
“If the same five countries are in it, it would probably be a different result (from Qatar) – whether or not that would be Australia or not, I don’t know, but I’m sure that Australia would do better.”