Australia 2022 World Cup bid expects to be cleared by FIFA probe into campaign gifts

By Graham Dunbar, AP
Sunday, July 11, 2010

Australia 2022 bid ethics to be cleared by FIFA

JOHANNESBURG — Leaders of Australia’s 2022 World Cup bid expect FIFA to clear them of allegations they offered illegal gifts and inducements in their campaign.

Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy told The Associated Press he believes FIFA’s ethics committee could publish its favorable report “within days.”

“I understand and expect that FIFA will give us clearance,” Lowy said in after talking with senior FIFA figures at a meeting of the 2010 World Cup organizing committee.

“Of course, their priority is now (Sunday’s) final match and I think they don’t want to be diverted with this issue.”

Lowy said he was optimistic the episode prompted by newspaper allegations would not undermine Australia’s bid during the final five months before FIFA votes on sites for 2018 and 2022 in December.

“Did it cause damage? Well, it didn’t bring us credit,” he said. “Sometimes from a bit of adversity, if you handle it right you do get some advantage. Our intentions are good. We haven’t deviated from any rules.”

FIFA started investigating last month after The Age newspaper reported some FIFA executive members who choose World Cup hosts were given jewelry and offered travel expenses.

The Australian federation said the pearl cufflinks and necklaces were presented at a private dinner after the FIFA Congress held in Sydney in May 2008 — eight months before official campaigning began and candidates were bound by ethics rules.

FIFA says World Cup bidders can give gifts of “symbolic or incidental value and that exclude any influence on a decision in relation to the bidding process.”

The newspaper reported that Australia’s bid also offered travel payments for a Trinidad and Tobago under-20 team to train in Cyprus. Trinidad’s Jack Warner is a FIFA vice president and regarded as a key power broker in soccer politics.

Lowy said the reports would not damage relations with Warner, who also was attending the World Cup final at Soccer City.

“I have heard from him indirectly that these stories don’t mean anything to him, because he believes them not to be true,” Lowy said.

The Australian federation is suing The Age for defamation, and is “very disturbed and very, very unhappy that this case is being pushed further and further,” Lowy said.

Last week, the Australian government cleared the 2022 bid in a separate inquiry after other allegations about accounting practices and use of taxpayer funds.

New prime minister Julia Gillard, who took office June 24, the day after Australia was eliminated from the World Cup, fully supports the bid, Lowy said.

Gillard is the third prime minister backing the bid after it was confirmed under John Howard, then Kevin Rudd’s administration approved $39.5 million of public funds.

An important stage of Australia’s bid arrives July 26-29 when FIFA experts inspect the country’s stadiums and infrastructure.

The 2018 tournament is expected to go to Europe, leaving Australia competing for the 2022 event with Japan, Qatar, South Korea and the United States.

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