x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Fifa inquiry into voting bid for Qatar offers Australia slim hope

Allegations surrounding the bid of the Gulf State could see rival bidders offered a second chance.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter announces Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.
Fifa President Sepp Blatter announces Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.

SYDNEY // Australia remain cautious about the prospects of Qatar losing the right to host the Fifa World Cup in 2022 amid conjecture that an inquiry into corruption in the bidding process for the hosting of the tournament could result in a re-run of the controversial vote.

Qatar won the contest to host the world's biggest single sporting event last December in a ballot contested by the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia's whose Aus$45 million (Dhs174,197 million) bid garnered just one vote.

Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, last week responded to newspaper reports that two members of the executive committee were paid to vote for the Gulf State's bid by saying the whistleblower behind the allegations would be interviewed this week.


Blatter, who goes up against Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam in an election for the presidency of Fifa on June 1, has not ruled out a re-run of the vote but Football Federation Australia (FFA) was not about to pre-empt a decision.

"FFA has yet to seriously consider its position following the Fifa President's comments about the 2022 World Cup bidding process," an FFA spokesman said on Monday.

"If and when FIFA makes a decision about a review, FFA will make a decision on what is best for Australian football."

Sports minister Mark Arbib also sounded a cautionary note when asked about the prospects of a re-run over the weekend.

"We're not getting our hopes up that there will be a decision to have a new ballot," he told reporters. "I don't think we should get our hopes up yet.

"We need to have a chance for these allegations to be heard."

Arbib, who is expected to face questions in the Australian parliament on Tuesday about how the Aus$45 million was spent, said a new campaign should not cost any extra money.

"All the work has been done in terms of scoping the stadium, all the specifications, the technical work is complete," he added.

Frank Lowy, the octogenarian shopping centre tycoon who runs FFA and said executive committee members had "outright lied" to the Australian bid team, has yet to make public comment on the corruption allegations.

Even if there was to be a re-run, however, Australia would be far from favourites, as one newspaper columnist pointed out on Monday.

"Lost in the wash of last December's contentious vote was the fact that the Qataris weren't alone in giving Frank Lowy a black eye," Michael Cockerill wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"By the time the poll closed, the Americans had eight times as many votes as Australia. That's a lot of ground to make up."