The Kangaroo that felt swindled by FIFA
Australia’s bid for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups did not fail due to a lack of suitability or a lack of infrastructure, the former head of Corporate and Strategic Affairs at the Australian Football Association (FFA) Bonita Mersiades told delegates at Play the Game 2013.
Rather, it was due to a culture of corruption in FIFA, she claimed. During the process, she said, the Australian taxpayers spent millions of dollars, much of which was pocketed by European consultants who claimed to have the ear of FIFA officials.
Australia, which had never hosted a World Cup, had already proven that it could successfully host a mega-event after the 2000 Sydney Olympics, she pointed out.
However, after the decision to bid for football’s grandest tournament was made, a number of outside consultants were brought in to oversee the process. These included Peter Hargitay and Fedor Radmann, whose efforts in advocacy and bid preparation alone cost AUS 5.3 million.
Another outsider, Andreas Abold was handed a contract to compile the so-called bid book, final presentation, and oversee the technical inspection, which together cost more than AUS 10 million.
The FFA also funded a trip for the Trinidad and Tobago Under 20 team to Cyprus, which entailed a payment of half a million Australian dollars to then-FIFA Executive Committee member Jack Warner, Mersiades said.
The final cost of the bid was around AUS 46 million. As the bidding process gathered pace, the consultancy expenses mounted, with first class travel and top hotels adding to the FFA’s financial burden. However, as the vote drew near, it became clear that Australia was unlikely to garner enough votes to reach the final round of bidding.
In the end, the nation received just a single vote out of a possible 22. The final nail in Australia’s coffin, Mersiades said, was a cliché-ridden presentation involving a cartoon kangaroo stealing the FIFA World Cup which was “embarrassing to all Australians”.
The concept was not developed by FFA – it had been farmed out to Andreas Abold. In hindsight, she said, it was likely that FIFA executives had not even opened Australia’s bid book, and it was probably only read by bureaucrats that were paid to read it.
“We couldn’t have done any worse if we’d done it all ourselves,” Mersiades said. After criticising the financial aspects of the bidding process, Mersiades was dismissed from her position at the FFA.
She is currently writing a book entitled “The Bid – Secrets of the Battle to Host the World Cup”.