Sport

Whistleblower, politicians slam FIFA ethics

"FIFA is only feigning ethics at this point": Nick Xenophon.
"FIFA is only feigning ethics at this point": Nick Xenophon. Photo: Erin Jonasson

The conduct of FIFA and its ethics committee have been attacked by an Australian whistleblower and politicians, with the latest integrity report being described as a farce followed by demands that world football's governing body repay the costs of Australia's bid. 

Former Football Federation of Australia head of communications, Bonita Mersiades, has slammed FIFA's "culture of silence" after investigations into alleged corruption cleared the winning World Cup bids from Russia and Qatar from any wrongdoing.

FIFA published a condensed 42-page summary of a 430-page investigation led by American lawyer Michael Garcia, which was heavily critical of the conduct of the Australian and English bidding teams, alleging inappropriate use of funds. 

Garcia was quick to attack the summary by FIFA, which he says includes "numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts". The full report submitted by Garcia will not be made public by FIFA because of "privacy" reasons bringing the transparency of FIFA and the integrity of the bidding process again into question. 

Mersiades, a whistleblower interviewed in the investigation, criticised FIFA's announcement and the alleged culture of cover-ups within the organisation.

"There's a culture of silence in FIFA," Mersiades told Bloomberg. "There are issues right at the very top of FIFA that they wouldn't like being made public so it's in their interest to discredit it."

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Australian federal senator Nick Xenophon called for FIFA to repay the Australian government the $46 million spent on the bidding process as a result of the lack of transparency surrounding the bidding process and investigations into corruption.

Much of Australia's 2022 World Cup bid was funded by taxpayers with federal government support. The latest report and clearing of alleged vote buying from the winning bids was poorly received by Xenophon who demanded a cleanout of FIFA and a reimbursement of the costs spent by the Australian public on the bidding process.

"It proves that FIFA cannot be trusted to clean up its act," Xenophon said. "FIFA is only feigning ethics at this point. This whitewash of an investigation is an own goal by FIFA and must lead to reform of the antiquated governing body."

A spokesman for Sports Minister Peter Dutton said: "The previous Labor government spent $46 million and a one-vote outcome was disappointing.

"FIFA has chosen to release an edited, abbreviated version of a report from its internal assessment of the investigation into the bidding process. Noteworthy is the fact that FIFA's chief appointed investigator disputes this version.

"FIFA needs to be open and transparent and if there are matters that require further investigation it should provide specific details and refer these matters to the appropriate authorities to enable action."

Greens' sport spokesman Richard Di Natale called for an independent investigation into Australia's bid.

"Like many other Australians I would love to see Australia host the World Cup but that doesn't mean we should endorse corrupt behaviour," Di Natale said.

"Allegations about Australia's conduct as part of its bid to the host the World Cup raise some serious red flags. The Greens want an independent investigation into our bid so that we can get everything out in the open, not hidden in some confidential FIFA report. It proves that FIFA cannot be trusted to clean up its act."

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