Aussie World Cup whistleblower protests

An Australian whistleblower in World Cup corruption claims says she has been denigrated by FIFA’s ethics committee.


Bonita Mersiades, who worked for Australia’s failed bid to host soccer’s World Cup in 2022, has lodged a formal complaint to FIFA and its ethics committee judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert.

“I was traduced by Eckert,” Mersiades wrote in a column on The Guardian website published on Tuesday.

Judge Eckert last week published a 42-page summary report of an investigation by New York lawyer Michael Garcia into the controversial bidding process.

Australia spent almost $46 million on its bid yet received one vote.

The Eckert summary cleared Qatar and Russia, the respective 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts, of corruption and ruled out a re-vote for the tournaments despite widespread allegations of wrongdoing.

Mersiades said she and Qatari whistleblower Phaedra Almajid were denigrated and easily identified by Eckert’s report, which has separately been challenged by Garcia as an erroneous interpretation of his investigation.

“It says much about FIFA and those inside its tent that it felt it necessary to engage in a denigration of the two women who had been courageous enough to say something,” Mersiades wrote.

“It is one thing to discount our discussions and the evidence – an investigator is entitled to do that.

“But it is extraordinary to single out two individuals and detail (mostly incorrectly) the contact with Garcia, especially when we were assured in writing and in person that our dealings with him were confidential.

“The question is why?”

Mersiades, a former head of corporate and public affairs at Football Federation Australia, said Australia’s experience in bidding to host a World Cup was “a salutary one”.

“We were seduced by the potential of a turbocharge to the game domestically; the strategic advice of three international consultants was unquestionably accepted by bid leaders and we paid $15.2m of taxpayers money for their services,” she wrote.

“Plus, we were naive enough to believe that when an ExCo (FIFA executive committee) member said we had his vote in a secret ballot, he actually meant it.”

Mersiades called for transparency within FIFA, which has refused to publish the entirety of Garcia’s report.

“Change will not happen from within FIfA,” she wrote.

“Time and time again it has shown itself to be incapable of real reform.

“The only way things will change is if governments, sponsors and broadcasters take the lead on our behalf and say enough is enough.”