April 22, 2013

FFA pays $462,200 for stadium upgrade – in the Caribbean

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A high-level committee in the Caribbean comprised of a former Chief Justice, a forensic auditor and a US federal court judge has issued a report on the financial management of CONCACAF with big implications – and one key question – for Australia.

Just when did Australian World Cup Bid officials realise they had been taken for a ride?

They certainly didn’t want to believe it when I told them – on numerous occasions – before I was sacked by Ben Buckley in January 2010.

Was it when they turned up at the Trinidad and Tobago football centre of excellence (COE) in Macoya in August 2010 for a visit with Jack Warner and his underlings?

Alarm bells should have been ringing as soon as they saw the bust of Joao Havelange at the front of the complex. The COE comprises a hotel, swimming pool, convention centre, multi-story health club and the Marvin Lee football stadium. Only the year before artificial turf had been laid on the order of FIFA’s local development officer – one of Jack Warner’s sons.

But somehow, a visiting Australian delegation decided it was worthwhile spending US$462,200 of our hard-earned money on ‘upgrading’ the Marvin Lee stadium. What for?

Well, it was nothing to do with Jack Warner’s vote for the World Cup of course. For a start, Jack had learned not to directly discuss his vote in person. He confined such discussions to his friend and personal PR advisor, and FFA’s highest-profile consultant, Peter Hargitay. Warner had tried to convince the former England bid leader, Lord David Triesman, to make a similar investment about one year earlier. When Jack nominated his personal account to receive US$2.5 million for vague good works, Triesman looked at his watch and departed.

England didn’t get Warner’s vote. But then neither did Australia.

Why is this relevant now? Well click here for the report released on the weekend of the forensic investigation into two decades of creative accounting by Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer. The word “allegations” is there 22 times; “misappropriate” gets 26 mentions; and “fraud” scores 44 hits. Get past the contents and the executive summary – where Australia is mentioned – and find page 96.

Following the visit in August 2010, the Aussie cheque turns up one month later.

The account name given to FFA sounded ok, so apparently there was no need for due diligence, and a cheque was presented for the ‘stadium upgrade’ of US$462,200. By the time you add-in the costs of travelling there – presumably with consultant in tow – at least twice, the total bill would have amounted to more than half-a-million dollars.

The Caribbean investigative team published that Australia’s money isn’t mentioned in any financial records. It disappeared. Evaporated. The bank account it went to wasn’t anything to do with football. It was a Warner personal account. The report concludes that Warner “misappropriated” the money and committed a “fraud”.

But, back home, someone forgot to mention it also.

FFA neglected to disclose this generous grant. Where did the money come from? Our taxes? FFA general revenue? An offshore account of the Chairman? There is no public record of the donation; no media release; no mention in FFA’s 2011 Final Report to the Government on the World Cup Bid; and nothing about it in FFA’s annual financial statements for 2010-11.

Why did FFA not shout from the rooftops about this act of great Aussie generosity? Why didn’t FFA get up and talk about it? Why wasn’t there a picture opportunity?

Was it because – just like the all expenses paid trip to Cyprus of the Trinidad and Tobago U-20 team – someone knew that some of us might not see this gesture in quite the same light as they did? Does this generous gesture also need forensic analysis?

And who got us into this? What was the role of Peter Hargitay?

We know that in September 2010, Hargitay was busy elsewhere in the Caribbean: he was photographed with FFA’s John Boultbee as an MOU was signed with the Jamaican FA for access of up to $2.5 million of Australian taxpayers’ money. On that occasion, Hargitay is alleged to have been paid three times over: by FFA, the Jamaican FA and on commission from a shirt company to sell football shirts.

So today, we hang our heads in embarrassment.

Our World Cup bid was scrutinised by agencies and we were assured by a slew of public figures that it was clean. But I guess that depends on one’s definition of ‘clean’ doesn’t it?

Investigators half a world away have shown us the evidence of what should have been revealed by our own people.

The FFA must reveal the date when they first heard from the Caribbean that something had gone dreadfully wrong with our donation. And they should explain why they didn’t make it public.

Will FFA get the taxpayers’ money back? Will FIFA Ethics Committee member, Les Murray, assist them? Will the Australian Federal Police take an interest? And will the Government seek a proper audit this time?

Whatever the answer to those questions, one thing’s for sure: FFA know they can’t say didn’t know and that they weren’t warned. And they know that I know.

By the way, in one final irony – Jack Warner was Minister for National Security in Trinidad and Tobago. The police and the fraud squad answered to him.

UPDATE: Since publishing this article on Monday, Jack Warner has resigned from his Ministerial post.

Additional reporting courtesy of Andrew Jennings.


  1. bitterbonnie

    Who cares? Seriously, get over this. It was years ago. Football has moved on from the corrupt world cup bid process. Stop being so bitter Bonnie. You’ve joined Jessie Fink as one of the most bitter journalists in the history of Football in Australia, seeking to tear it down from the inside long after the WC bid actually mattered. It’s bad enough we have to deal with the mainstream media’s hatred of Football, when we’ve got an ex-FFA official trying to wreck the joint because they got sacked 3 years ago.

    • this is more important than football, BB. Corruption is corruption no matter what the sport. Fans and stakeholders have a right to know how the FFA spends their money. Keep it up Bonita!

    • Ray Gatt

      You are kidding whoever you are! Put your real name to your comment. It’s our money that was wasted on a doomed bid. FFA are accountable to the government and the people of Australia. By your reckoning we should white wash it all and pretend it didnt happen.
      Ray Gatt, chief football writer The Australian

    • James Corbett

      If you want to put your head in the sand, that’s your choice. But don’t post abuse hiding behind some stupid avatar. That’s a coward’s game.

  2. Ross Allan

    What a stupid comment to make from someone too gutless to even put their name ‘bitterbonnie’ below. Such a comment comes from someone who is ignorant and who has no capacity to deal with the issues, so you revert to criticising the person. Anyone who reads the full breadth of what she writes, or says on Debbie Spillane’s program, or meets her (I haven’t) knows that is patently not true.

    Bonita didn’t ask CONCACAF to have the commission of inquiry. Bonita didn’t write the report. Bonita wasn’t the one who failed to report the donation.

    I, for one, don’t think our taxes should be used in this way. Bonita or any writer/journalist not only has a right to bring these issues to our attention but a responsibility to do so. They are legitimate questions to be asked and answered but I won’t hold my breath.

  3. Finsta

    Anyone who believes that any bids these days for major events such as The World Cup or the Olympics are completely clean are kidding themselves.

  4. Rubens Camejo

    OK, there is enough in this article to merit the government and perhaps even the Federal Police to begin looking at the claims contained within it.
    Here is my call for such an investigation.

    As most football fans feel, I had hoped the ill thought out bid for the WC would just fade quietly into the dark recess of the memory, filed under stupidity/in hindsight.

    Now it appears we have to dust off the files and look at what, corruption and/or other illegalities?

    Let’s get on with it.

  5. Mark Of Canberra

    Brilliant article, thanks for bringing it to our attention. I hope you’re wrong and missed the para where FFA reported on this, but I doubt you are. It is totally consistent with everything I’ve read before on the WCB and FIFA.

    As for the idiot ‘bitterbonnie’ I guess that’s an FFA employee doing what he’s told. When people can’t debate they resort to personal insults and think the rest of us are too stupid to realise it. Says a lot.

  6. Daryl Adair

    Bonita, you have become a first-class investigative reporter. This means that you will have plenty of supporters but also lots of enemies. Plaudits to you for the courage of your convictions, and for asserting that ethics, transparency and accountability are cornerstones of trustworthy sport governance.

  7. Aubrey Adams

    Just heard from a friend in T & T that Warner resigned as a govt minister this morning, Friday 22 April

  8. Thank you for your clear and concise reporting. You may update the final statement – Trinidad has finally seen the light and Jack Warner is no longer our Minister of National Security however, he remains chairman of one of the ruling parties and a Member of Parliament (as of today) …there is surely more to come in the saga of Jack Warner.

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