Fifa lands Down Under

A Fifa delegation began a three-day visit to Australia to inspect stadiums and other facilities today for the country’s 2022 World Cup bid.

The inspection team from football’s world governing body includes six delegates led by Chilean Football Federation President Harold Mayne-Nicholls.

It includes Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the organising committee for the recently concluded 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Australia, the third stop on tour of the nine countries which are bidding to host the 2018 or 2022 Fifa World Cup tournaments, was cleared last week by Fifa of wrongdoing.

Fifa said it reviewed allegations that expensive gifts were provided to some Fifa Congress delegates in May 2008 – eight months before official campaigning began – but decided there were “no grounds to open a formal case”.

Although it considered the matter closed, Fifa reminded Australia’s soccer federation about bidding rules.

Fifa started investigating last month after Melbourne’s The Age newspaper reported some Fifa executive members were given jewellery and offered travel expenses.

Today, the Fifa team was treated to a traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony welcome on the Sydney Opera house forecourt.

They were joined by FFA chairman Frank Lowy and Federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis before hearing their first briefing from the Australian bid team.

Mayne-Nicholls said: “For us it is a real pleasure to be here in your beautiful country and we are sure that during this stay we will learn a lot about your people, your bid book and your ability to hold big events.

“We hope also that you will be in a position to ask us all the questions you need to resolve before we write the final report.”

Ten Australian host cities have been selected in six states and territories. New stadiums will be built in Perth, Canberra and Blacktown in western Sydney, and nine others upgraded should the bid be successful, FFA said in a statement.

At the end of the inspection tour, the delegation will submit a report to assist Fifa’s 24 executive members select a host for the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cup tournaments, which will be announced by Fifa on December 2 in Zurich.

Australia is competing with bids from South Korea and Japan, which co-hosted the 2002 World Cup, Qatar, Japan and the United States for the 2022 World Cup.

The US is also in the contest for 2018, which is expected to be awarded to one of four European bids: England, Russia, and the joint bids of Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium.

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