FOOTBALL: Australia had "no chance” of winning the rights to host the World Cup according to former FIFA president Sepp Blatter in an interview featured in an explosive book published Thursday that lifts the lid on Australia's failed bid for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
"Whatever It Takes - The Inside Story of the FIFA Way” by former Football Federation Australia executive Bonita Mersiades details step by step the Frank Lowy-led bid that cost Australian taxpayers close to an estimated $50 million but delivered a first-round knockout with just one vote.
In an interview that took place in Zurich in November, 2017, Blatter told Mersiades that Australia was never considered a serious contender to host the 2022 World Cup.
The book reveals Blatter's comments were supported by then-FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke in 2009 and again by another FIFA executive committee member the same year who independently gave similar points of view.
"Australia had no chance,” Blatter says.
"Not a chance. Never.”
Asked why Australia's team of European consultants and advisers - hired at huge expense in part for their supposed close relationship with Blatter - had told FFA its bid was a genuine contender when the reality was very different, the ex-FIFA boss said: "I don't know why they told you [that] you could win when you had no chance. That was very bad of them.”
Blatter, who turns 82 years old in March, said he was the sole member of FIFA's executive committee to vote for Australia in December 2010, contradicting claims German legend Franz Beckenbauer was behind Australia's one vote as part of a previously agreed deal with the German football federation.
Blatter said he voted for Australia in the first round because his daughter Corinne had asked him to. Corrine Blatter worked for Soccer Australia, a previous incarnation of football's local governing body, during the 1990s.
"My daughter wanted me to vote for Australia so I could not go home and tell her I did if I didn't,” Blatter said.
"I knew if I didn't vote for Australia, no-one else would and I wanted you to get at least one vote.”
Blatter said the stand-out reason Australia was never seriously considered as a host was because its location made it unattractive for TV broadcasters and therefore FIFA revenue streams.
"You never had a chance because you were never going to be competitive for the broadcasters,” Blatter said.
"Not the time zone, not the money. It is obvious. We have to make enough money at the World Cup for the next four years and Australia wouldn't be able to do it.”
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told members of an FFA delegation to Zurich in 2009 led by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that Australia faced the same challenges.
Another FFA delegation to Egypt was was warned of identical hurdles during a meeting in Cairo with FIFA executive committee member Hany Abo Rida.
"Whatever It Takes” tells how Ben Buckley, FFA CEO at the time and now chairman of AFL club North Melbourne, insisted Australia's strategy should highlight its close proximity to Asia, and a large TV market.
Buckley's pitch was ignored by FIFA's executive committee, most of whom agreed that Qatar should host the 2022 tournament.
Blatter said he didn't tell FFA chairman Frank Lowy that Australia would never win the 2022 vote because he did not want to interfere in the bidding process.
"I was the FIFA president,” Blatter said.
"If a member association wants to bid, I have to welcome it. I cannot tell them not to do so. They have a right. What would people say if I went around saying they shouldn't bid? Then they would say I was interfering.”
Asked what he thought about Australia's government funding an almost $50 million bid that would never win, Blatter said that was not his responsibility.
"I didn't ask your government to pay, did I?” Blatter said.