FIFA: Garcia corruption report into World Cup bids sheds light on Australia's conduct
The world of football politics is as dark as it is deep.
If you didn't know it before reading this report in full, you would after. During the 2022 World Cup bidding process, it appears Australia's governing body, the FFA, was right in the thick of it.
The release in full of the FIFA commissioned Garcia Report overnight has cast more doubt over the conduct of Australia's bid team to win support of then-key FIFA delegates.
More than $45 million dollars was committed by the Australian Government in support of the failed bid, which secured one solitary vote from 22 voting members.
While the key findings have been known for some time, specific information is provided on some of the correspondence between FFA senior management and its bid consultant Peter Hargitay.
Les Murray, one of Australia's leading football broadcasters — recently retired — has also been implicated, although he has told the ABC that he denies the allegations.
The FFA says the release of the full report does not raise substantiative new matters.
Hargitay's unethical conduct
Peter Hargitay is a Swiss public relations and marketing consultant who was hired by the FFA. A former advisor to then President Sepp Blatter, his job was to orchestrate dealings with top-ranking members of the FIFA Executive and lobby for support.
Perhaps the most damning assessment in the report relates to Hargitay's work. It suggests that his communication would have caused the FFA to believe he was acting unethically.
"His communications with FIFA officials reflect inappropriate denigration of other bids and show that he obtained confidential internal FIFA Ethics Committee correspondence.
"That misconduct was exacerbated when he forwarded those communications to the bid team members in order to demonstrate his 'insider' status.
"His actions gave the appearance, at least to his employer, that he was improperly influencing the process."
Warned about Jack
Jack Warner has been banned from football for life but leading up to the decision to determine the World Cup hosts in 2018 and 2022, he was an active member of the FIFA Executive with one very valuable vote.
Born in Trinidad in 1943, Warner rose to the top of the Caribbean football and was appointed Vice President of his region, CONCACAF, in 1983. This led to his rise within FIFA.
Warner was a target of the Australian bid team. The FFA saw this region as an opportunity to honour a commitment to "global football development", a key part of FIFA's key criteria in assessing World Cup bids, while securing direct bid support.
Prompted by Warner and with direction from Hargitay, a transfer of $500,000 was proposed for CONCACAF, for the purposes of building a new centre of excellence.
FFA official John Boultbee revealed that while lunching with Warner and his associates in a Chinese restaurant in Trinidad, he was taken aside by an associate of Warner and told that CONCACAF would need an additional $5 million of funding before the World Cup bid decisions, in 2010.
A suspicious Boultbee promptly passed this onto senior FFA officials, who did not act on the request. But the original $500,000 grant still proceeded. It's been well documented that upon later investigation, these funds were never accounted for in CONCACAF's books.
Not a name well known to Australian football, probably because it was partly concealed by the FFA bid team under project codename "Road to Babylon".
Fedor Radmann was a known business associate of German footballing great Franz Beckenbauer, another member of the FIFA Executive Committee who also had a vote.
Radmann had been a member of the German bid team — led by Beckenbauer — that was successful in bidding to host the 2006 World Cup.
England bid team chief executive Andy Lee says he quickly gave up hope of lobbying Beckenbauer.
"Mr Beckenbauer had a guy called Fedor Radmann who works very closely for him, and he was giving us the strong hint that we would never get his vote."
Australia on the other hand, was more optimistic.
"Peter Hargitay wrote a January 2009 email to Australia 2022 Chair Frank Lowy and CEO Ben Buckley summarising 'a series of exhausting but positive meetings' with various FIFA Executive Committee members, including Mr Beckenbauer.
"Mr Hargitay noted that he would 'be sending you a full report — with a further special report about my mtg with FR and FB — tomorrow evening'.
"'FR' and 'FB' are the initials of Mr Radmann and Mr Beckenbauer, respectively.
"Later in his email, Mr Hargitay wrote: In order to maintain maximum confidentiality, I want to name our project 'Road through Babylon' and our two key contacts 'F&F.' I shall send over a password-protected list of aliases."
Les Murray implicated
Retired Australian footballing broadcaster Les Murray has today denied the report's allegations that he sent an email to then-FIFA Ethics Committee boss, Sebastian Coe, in 2009 which questioned the integrity of the England bid.
The report says Murray then sent this onto Hargitay:
"Mr Hargitay then forwarded the email to Australia 2022 chairman Frank Lowy along with the message: 'Boom. Here we go:):).'
"The following month, Mr Hargitay urged Australia 2022 general secretary Ben Buckley to appoint Mr Murray as a bid ambassador."
A wide range of bids discussed
While it figures prominently, the FFA was not the only governing body whose actions were questioned.
There is discussion around the English FA's plan to play an international friendly in Thailand in the days leading up to the vote to secure support, while details of the victorious Qatari bid have been uncovered, including the alleged involvement of an Emir, who helped finance various investment projects of FIFA members to gain an unfair advantage.