Football Federation Australia (FFA) chairman Frank Lowy has moved to re-affirm his belief that the country ran a “clean bid” for the 2022 World Cup.
Australian police are looking into an alleged $500,000 payment made to Jack Warner by FFA, with the former CONCACAF president – one of 14 people indicted last week in relation to corruption at FIFA – alleged to have misappropriated the funds.
FFA has previously denied any wrongdoing and, in an open letter on Wednesday, Lowy explained the exact nature of the payment, which he claims was made to CONCACAF, rather than to Warner personally.
“The FIFA bid guidelines required us to demonstrate a commitment to international football, particularly through projects in developing countries,” he wrote. “We were playing ‘catch up’ in world football terms. Australia had only begun its reform of football in 2003. We entered the Asian Confederation in 2006. When we launched our bid for 2022 we were not familiar with the powerbrokers in world football.
“This led us to recruit, on the advice of FIFA’s leadership, consultants who ultimately proved less than effective to say the least. It led us to work hard to meet the commitment to development projects.
“We gave funds, often in conjunction with Ausaid and the Australian Government, to many countries and football associations. Sometimes these were football related… others were humanitarian.
“This was effectively the same approach used to win the bid for the 2000 Olympics [hosted by Sydney], and by government to win a seat on the UN Security Council, and was consistent with what every other bidding nation was doing.
“The donation which has received most attention was to CONCACAF.
“This was to fund a feasibility study to develop its Centre of Excellence in Trinidad and Tobago. The man behind the centre was the president of CONCACAF, Jack Warner, whose reputation as a “colourful character” was well known.
“He had been on the FIFA Executive Committee since 1983 and was seen as hugely influential to the World Cup vote.
“The centre asked Australia to donate $4million to the project. We compromised and offered $500,000 to fund a preliminary feasibility study.
“The Chief Executive of the Centre, not Warner, gave us the bank account details for CONCACAF. We paid the money into that account and received confirmation it was received by the bank. It was paid into a CONCACAF account, not Jack Warner’s personal account.
“When CONCACAF contacted us to say they were conducting an inquiry into its accounts, we provided information about our donation.
“That inquiry – conducted by two 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.
“That initial inquiry by CONCACAF was taken over by FIFA and Michael Garcia, and again Australia provided information to Garcia. We also became aware that law enforcement authorities in the US were looking into the matter.
“We asked CONCACAF to give our money back because it wasn’t used for the purpose we intended, and were advised by FIFA to wait until the inquiries were complete. Those inquiries are still ongoing.
“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.
“But since 2 December 2010 Australia has been working behind the scenes to bring about change, and we will continue to do that as FIFA embarks on this new era.”
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