All payments made were transparent, says Australia's football federation
Officials deny any impropriety in donations for development projects overseas as corruption probe into Qatar's World Cup bid continues
The Australian football federation (FFA) denied any impropriety in its failed bid for the 2022 World Cup yesterday, saying its support for soccer projects abroad was transparent and in accordance Fifa guidelines.
The denial comes on the back of fresh allegations surrounding Qatar's successful 2022 bid after a prominent British newspaper claimed it had evidence that around US$5 million was paid to Fifa officials in return for votes.
With Qatar organisers "vehemently" denying wrongdoing in their bid, calls for the tournament to be moved if corruption is proved have grown louder since the report's publication.
The tournament's future now appears to rest in the hands of former US prosecutor Michael Garcia, who is leading an internal inquiry into corruption in world soccer, including the bidding process that awarded Russia and Qatar the next two World Cups.
Garcia set out a timetable that would see him file a report after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Bonita Mersiades, who was the FFA's head of corporate affairs during the 2022 bid process, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Australia's grants to overseas bodies also had to be examined.
"Some of the evidence published in relation to Qatar was that some of the money was given to development projects - we gave money for development projects, we gave US$4 million to the Oceania Football Confederation for sports development," she said.
"The question [for Garcia] was, was there a vote attached to it? If the answer is 'yes', then it's very hard to argue that that activity is very much different from what [Mohamed] bin Hammam is alleged to have been doing."
Disgraced official Bin Hammam, who was AFC president when the World Cup was awarded to his native country in 2010, is at the centre of the latest claims, but has yet to comment publicly.
The FFA yesterday insisted its support for projects abroad was in accordance with Fifa's guidelines, which required World Cup bidders to demonstrate their commitment to "football development" and "sustainable social and human development".
"It has been previously widely reported that during its bid campaign, Australia supported a number of football and humanitarian programmes," the FFA said. "FFA has kept the Australian Government and football authorities, including Mr Garcia, informed of these activities at all relevant times."
The FFA said its support for a "Concacaf Centre of Excellence" project in the Caribbean was a "matter of public record". The FFA donated A$500,000 (HK$3.6 million) in 2010 for a feasibility study for the centre and was told in 2013, after a Concacaf probe, that the fund had been misappropriated by the former president of the continental governing body.
"FFA liaised with both Concacaf and Fifa following the Concacaf inquiry finding and was informed that Mr Garcia's inquiry would now investigate the matter further," the FFA said. "FFA provided information to Mr Garcia and co-operated fully.
"Australia's activities throughout were transparent and proper."