‘Australia must act now to bag FIFA showcase’


Australia to need a co-host for hosting FIFA World Cup Image: AFC

Football Australia Chief Executive James Johnson has acknowledged that Australia must find a suitable co-host if it wants to be successful in any attempt to host a FIFA World Cup™.

‘The Age’ stated that Johnson confirmed the game has renewed its interest in hosting a men’s World Cup, 11 years after the country’s bid for the 2022 tournament ended in disappointment when it secured just one vote from FIFA’s Council at a cost to taxpayers of $40 million.

Football Australia is the governing body of soccer, futsal and beach soccer within Australia, headquartered in Sydney. It was later reconstituted in 2003 as the Australian Soccer Association before adopting the name of Football Federation Australia in 2005.

The FIFA World Cup, often simply called the World Cup, is an international association football competition contested by the senior men’s national teams of the members of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the sport’s global governing body.

With the 2023 Women’s World Cup heading to Australia and Brisbane awarded the 2032 Olympics, Australia could be entering a period filled with big-ticket sporting events, and there is renewed confidence about the integrity of FIFA’s decision-making process following a series of reforms led by the FIFA boss, Gianni Infantino.

‘The Age’ further stated that Johnson stressed that Football Australia had not yet decided to bid for a future World Cup – most likely in 2034 – and was a long way from doing so, but said it was important any such talks began now – “We’re not bidding for the World Cup. It’s an aspiration that’s part of our vision … to host a men’s World Cup one day. But the way these competitions get won is the conversations behind closed doors start a decade before. The next time I think we could realistically host it is 2034 because 2026 is in North America, 2022 is in Asia, and 2030 – I think – will go to Europe or South America. There’s an opportunity to bring the World Cup back to Asia, the Asia-Pacific area, in 2034.”

However, Johnson said it would be impossible for Australia to go it alone like the bid team led by then-Chairman Frank Lowy did in the failed pursuit of the rights to the 2022 World Cup, which were controversially awarded to Qatar.

Added Johnson, a former FIFA executive who worked closely with Infantino, “If you look at the way Gianni wants to run his competition strategies, he wants cross-nation competitions. I don’t see any future World Cups being run by one country. It is something that would need to be done with other countries in the region, both in the Asia and probably Oceania region. What I can say is we’ve got an opportunity with the 2023 Women’s World Cup – I think we will deliver an outstanding tournament. If we can deliver the best ever Women’s World Cup tournament, it does put you in a good position to take on more FIFA competitions.”

The two most obvious potential partners for an Australian World Cup bid are the country’s two closest neighbors – New Zealand, who are co-hosts for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and Indonesia.

Prior to Johnson’s appointment as CEO, Football Australia held talks in 2019 for a joint bid with Indonesia and this would potentially involve other nations from South-East Asia.

Ratu Tisha, Secretary General of the Indonesian federation, said at the time, “It’s very exciting for both of the countries to work together. As we know, Indonesia and Australia have a long relationship, we are brother and sister in every way. The ASEAN region together with Australia, I think it’s really a good combination.”

FIFA will have a presence in Australia until the end of the Women’s World Cup, having opened a local office to assist planning and preparations – giving Australia unprecedented access to senior FIFA administrators to whom they can push their case to host the greatest sporting showpiece on earth.

Johnson said Canada was a good example of how successfully hosting one FIFA tournament can lead to other opportunities. After hosting the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Canada wanted the men’s tournament. However, they lacked the infrastructure and profile for an expanded men’s tournament of 48 teams, and joined forces with the USA and Mexico in a successful three-way bid for the 2026 World Cup.

Destinations NSW Director Rod McGeoch, who led Sydney’s successful bid for the 2000 Olympics and has held discussions with Johnson about entering the 2034 World Cup race, said any decision over a potential co-host should be made by the Federal Government rather than football administrators – “I personally think that’s a matter that goes to the top of the Australian Government. I think it’s an opportunity to do some things at a diplomatic level that the Australian Government would like to see happen.”

According to sources with knowledge of the early talks, there is cautious optimism around Australia’s chances of landing the rights due to the change in FIFA’s leadership and voting processes since the highly contentious vote in 2010 which saw Qatar landing the 2022 World Cup.

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter has since been replaced by reformist Infantino. Instead of FIFA’s insular council voting on the World Cup hosts via a secret ballot, the votes for World Cup hosts are now elected by all 211 national member associations in an open ballot.

The new process, which was used during the awarding of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, provides more transparency and dilutes power from FIFA’s inner sanctum.

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