Australian whistleblower calls FIFA statement "high comedy"
FIFA`s governance of world soccer is a "farce" and Judge Hans-Joachim Eckert`s statement summarising an 18-month probe into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups is "high comedy", according to the Australian whistleblower discredited in the statement.
Melbourne: FIFA`s governance of world soccer is a "farce" and Judge Hans-Joachim Eckert`s statement summarising an 18-month probe into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups is "high comedy", according to the Australian whistleblower discredited in the statement.
Bonita Mersiades, the head of communications for Australia`s 2022 bid, gave evidence to the probe`s lead investigator Michael Garcia about her concerns with her country`s bid but the statement questioned her "reliability" and dismissed all her information.
Another whistleblower for Qatar`s 2022 bid, identified by Mersiades as Phaedra Al Majid, the bid`s former international media officer, was also dismissed in the statement as unreliable and her information excluded.
The statement details a "prima facie case" that two of Australia`s bid consultants violated the bidding and ethics rules, and raises "indications" that Australia`s bid team had attempted to divert funds earmarked for development projects in Africa to countries with ties to voting FIFA executive members.
Mersiades told Reuters that those details were derived from the evidence she had shared with Garcia which was, in a bizarre contradiction, dismissed out of hand by the statement.
"If you read the subsequent paragraphs it seems to be presenting the very issues that we spoke about, so I`m not quite sure what it meant," she said in an interview by phone on Saturday.
"Is this Mike Garcia`s view or is it Judge Eckert`s or is it some sort of work-shopped report from FIFA? I think as we`re dealing with FIFA you have to take all of those possible answers into account.
"It`s surprising but I can only repeat that when a report from FIFA singles out two whistleblowers ... and the fact that they haven’t singled out anyone else, you have to ask why.
"I don`t know the answer. The fact we`re having this conversation, obviously it sticks out like a sore thumb to everyone."
Eckert said in the statement there were no grounds to reopen the bidding process which led to Russia being given the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 finals.
Three hours later former U.S. prosecutor Garcia, who led the investigation over an 18-month period, said the statement had misrepresented his 430-page report and that he would take the case to the FIFA appeal committee.
"The fact that you have a summary report put out by a judge, which then the person investigating is appealing against it -- although I`m not quite sure who he is appealing to -- this organisation is obviously one that just can`t run anything other than the World Cup," Mersiades said.
"It`s an organisation that in terms of governance is just a farce. There`s no other word for it.
"The only people that come out well in that summary report by Eckert is FIFA. (It says) they got their decisions right in respect to Qatar and Russia and there’s even a sentence and a reference in their that Sepp Blatter ran a wonderful process.
"It`s almost like high comedy."
Mersiades, who left Australia`s bid team in early 2010, would not comment on allegations of improprieties in Australia`s bid, saying she was bound by a confidentiality agreement which was only waived when talking to Garcia.
However, she said her departure from Australia`s soccer governing body Football Federation Australia (FFA), was because of "personality clashes" with the international consultants employed for the bid.
"(It was) because the international consultants wanted me to go ... The international consultants didn`t want me to be there," she said, adding that she had raised "too many questions" about their work.
The FFA have denied any wrongdoing in the bid.
Mersiades said she had spoken to the Qatar "whistleblower" Al Majid and she had reacted similarly to the statement as herself. Mersiades hoped Eckert`s statement wouldn`t discourage other potential whistleblowers from coming forward.
"I think fundamentally you should always try to do what you, yourself think is right," she said.
"I`m a pretty optimistic person. I know that some people think it`s a bit like tilting at windmills, but I hope that some time in my lifetime FIFA is reformed.
"And I passionately believe that the only people who can do that now are governments and sponsors.
"Clearly it’s not going to change with (president) Sepp Blatter at the top.
"He doesn’t understand the need for it, part of what all of this protects is him and the structures he has built around himself. It needs change from the top and someone with the appropriate authority and muscle to come in and make it happen."