Australia’s sports minister Mark Arbib with the 2022 bid leader Frank Lowy during the campaign (Getty)

(WFI) INSIDER understands that Australia’s sports minister Mark Arbib is closely watching developments at FIFA following calls in some quarters for a re-vote for the 2022 World Cup if bribery allegations against Qatar are proven.

Earlier this week, Qatar 2022 World Cup organisers dismissed allegations they paid $1.5 million to two FIFA Executive Committee members – CAF president Issa Hayatou and Ivory Coast’s Jacques Anouma – in exchange for their votes. Both men also denied receiving bribes.

A whistleblower claimed the bribes were paid to the pair, allegations which surfaced in a submission from a Sunday Times investigation that went before a British parliamentary inquiry two weeks ago. But the whistleblower, who INSIDER reported last week to be a former media officer with the Qatar bid, did not show up to be interviewed by FIFA in Zurich this week “based on the advice of his/her lawyer”, FIFA said.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is running for a fourth and final term in elections next Wednesday, said last week he would wait for evidence to arrive at FIFA headquarters in Zurich before determining whether the governing body’s ethics committee would open an investigation into the allegations against Hayatou and Anouma.

FIFA has already received corruption evidence from the Sunday Times but a spokesman for world football’s governing body told INSIDER on Thursday that there was no indication yet of whether an ethics probe would be launched.

In any investigation, if the allegations of bribery against Hayatou and Anouma are proven, Blatter has raised the prospect of a re-vote on the 2022 World Cup host.

Australia, which blew $45 million of taxpayers money on the bid which garnered just one vote, could yet win hosting rights under this scenario. The USA, Japan and South Korea were the other candidates in the 2022 race.

Arbib, who is also on the executive committee of World Anti-Doping Agency, and has a reputation for being a smart, leading political operative in the governing Labor Party, told the Australian Senate recently that he agreed with the view of British Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that “… Swiss authorities should consider legal action against FIFA or its executive members if any allegations are proven”.

“Like all football fans, I am disappointed about the allegations that have been made,” he said.

He also said that if anyone has evidence against FIFA executive members or the 2018/2022 bidding process “they should take it to FIFA”. “It is the place for the evidence to be heard.”

With allegations around FIFA corruption or impropriety appearing almost daily in the past week, INSIDER is told that Arbib is maintaining a “watching brief” and would not hesitate to contact his counterparts in other countries if needed.

Arbib also told the Senate that “there has been discussion about reform”.

While Australia may be dismissed by some in the corridors of FIFA as a minnow football nation, its women’s team is ranked 11th in the world and are the current Asian champions, it’s men’s team is ranked 20th, around 1 million Australians play the game and they are the hosts of the 2015 Asian Cup.

From Arbib’s perspective, that’s reason enough to take a close interest in developments.

Three FIFA ethics investigations before presidential vote
The FIFA ethics committee could potentially be busy with three separate corruption investigations this weekend before the FIFA Executive Committee meets on Monday and ahead of Wednesday’s presidential vote at the Zurich congress.

FIFA yesterday opened a separate ethics investigation into bribery claims made by CONCACAF secretary general Chuck Blazer against FIFA vice president Jack Warner and Mohamed bin Hammam, who is standing against Blatter in the June 1 presidential election.

Both men are scheduled to attend an ethics hearing on Sunday.

FIFA announced today that a press conference would be held around 6pm CET on May 29. FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke and deputy chairman of the FIFA Ethics Committee Petrus Damaseb will give their verdicts following the investigation and hand out any sanctions decided.

A third FIFA ethics investigation may be launched on Friday when football’s governing body receives a report from the English FA inquiry into accusations made by former England 2018 World Cup chairman David Triesman that four FIFA Ex-Co members – Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Worawi Makudi and Ricardo Teixeira – demanded “improper” inducements in return for their votes during the bidding campaign.

“We are yet to receive the report of The FA on those allegations made at the House of Commons, so cannot speculate on whether or not that will go to the ethics committee,” a FIFA spokesman told INSIDER.

An English FA spokesman told INSIDER: “Logistically we are set up to get it to them tomorrow.”

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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