SYDNEY: Frank Lowy, head of Football Federation Australia, has fired the latest and most aggressive shot across FIFA’s bows in the gathering storm over the 2022 World Cup in Qatar writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Lowy led Australia’s competing bid to host those finals which the world federation’s governing executive committee decided in December 2010 to send to the Gulf.
Australia were among four rivals to Qatar along with Japan, South Korea and the United States.
Among increasing concern among western European leagues and clubs, the billionaire businessman has demanded that FIFA should refund the monies paid by all the unsuccessful bidders if it decides to move the finals away from the traditional summer date.
In the case of Australia that represents the $43mm of taxpayers’ money invested in the bid. Australia was eliminated in the first round of voting with just one ballot cast in its favour, believed to have come from German exco delegate Franz Beckenbauer.
In a statement, Lowy said: “A transparent process should be established to examine the scheduling implications for all leagues and a method developed for agreeing appropriate compensation for those affected.”
an ”in-principle decision that just and fair compensation should be paid to those nations that invested many millions, and national prestige, in bidding for a summer event.”
He added: ”Any final decision on a winter World Cup should only be made after the investigative chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, chaired by Mr Michael Garcia, concludes its inquiries into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.”
This reference was to concerns raised about the nature of Qatar’s victory. Much of that concern has centred on a vote-swap agreement with Spain/Portugal which had been bid, simultanously, for the 2018 finals. However, if that were considered so serious a flaw as to reopen the 2022 issue then FIFA would have to review also the award of the 2018 finals to Russia – which is pushing ahead with preparations already.
Lowy has also suggested that, if the finals were moved to January 2022, that the FFA should be compensated because of the disruption threatened to the A-League, which runs between October and April.
He said: ”Australia invested heavily in the World Cup process and the entire nation was behind the bid. Since December 2010 Australia has been careful not to let its misgivings about the process be interpreted as sour grapes.
“Now, with increasing speculation about a change that will impact on us as one of the bidding nations, and because our competition will be affected, we have made our position public.”
“Our season takes place during the Australian summer to avoid a clash with other local football codes, a move that was necessary because the A-League simply could not get access to the high standard stadiums required as they were being used by other codes during the Australian winter
“If the World Cup were to be staged in the middle of our A-League season it would impact on our competition, not just for 2022, but for the seasons leading up to and beyond that date. Clubs, investors, broadcasters, players and fans would all be affected.
“FIFA has an opportunity now to make the best of a bad situation by embarking on a transparent and orderly approach, unlike the process that led to the original flawed decision in December 2010.”
The FIFA exco meets in Zurich on October 3-4 with the issue of the Qatar timing on the agenda.
President Sepp Blatter has suggested, bizarrely, that the exco would decide on a finals switch – and only then commission a study of the consqeuences.
This prospect has been challenged by Sunil Gulati, the president of the US federation and who led its own bid for 2022, as well as by Jeff Webb, a FIFA vice-president owing to his status as president of the Central and North American Confederation.