SYDNEY: Australian football supremo Frank Lowy has described Sepp Blatter’s announced resignation as the head of world federation FIFA as opening a door to reform.

In a long open letter Lowy, president of Football Federation Australia and a driving force behind the game’s domestic development, also tried to explain the underlying complexities of a World Cup bid.

Australian sport remains bitter that Australia’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup finals received just one vote from among the FIFA executive committee which ultimately awarded them to Qatar.

The Australian bid subsequently faced heavy criticism over a financial donation to a Caribbean football project. A similar grant, in this case for $10m from South Africa, features in the corruption indictment handed down last week by the United States Justice Department.

First, dealing with Blatter’s resignation, Lowy hoped it would “open the door to major reform” but cautioned that “FIFA’s problems are deep-rooted and tangled [and] it will take a united, concerted effort by its football associations to fix the mess.”

This was one reason why FFA had voted last week for Blatter’s unsuccessful challenger, Prince Ali of Jordan.

As Lowy said: “[Since] Australia received just one vote in its World Cup bid, I have nursed a bitter grievance.

“We ran a clean bid. I know that others did not, and I have shared what I know with the authorities. Did we make mistakes? Yes. Were we naïve? In some cases, yes. Would we do things differently in future? Absolutely.”

Bid guidelines

Lowy explained that FIFA bid guidelines “required us to demonstrate a commitment to international football, particularly through projects in developing countries.”

Hence outreach, in some cases with the Australian Government, to countries such as Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, East Timor and South Africa.

Lowy added: “The donation which has received most attention was to CONCACAF [the central/north Amrican confederation]. This was to fund a feasibility study to develop its Centre of Excellence in Trinidad & 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 $4m to the project. We compromised and offered $500,000 to fund a preliminary feasibility study.”

Only later did it emerge that the money had been had been misappropriated. Hence, ever since then, Australia had been working behind the scenes to bring about change.

Lowy added: “We will continue to do that as FIFA embarks on this new era.”

# # # #