John Coates Calls for FIFA Reform

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By Duncan Mackay

May 12 - John Coates, the President of the Australian Olympic Committee, has today joined calls for FIFA to reform in the wake of latest damaging allegations made about the selection of the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Former Football Association and England 2018 bid chairman Lord Triesman told a Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday (May 10) that there had been "improper and unethical" behaviour by four FIFA Executive Committee members when he was lobbying for England's World Cup bid.

Two others were named by the Committee itself as having been paid £1.5million (£917,000) to vote for Qatar 2022, including International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Issa Hayatou.

"It's not good for FIFA's image as the world body and so I really hope they will address things, even if it's only the perception," Coates, a member of the IOC's ruling Executive Board, told AAP today.

"Even if there's no evidence, at least there's a perception out there that there's something wrong and I hope - I'm sure - they'll look at it.

"Mud does stick when you throw it, so it is damaging."

Coates, who is also the President of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, has echoed the views of Britain's Sport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson, who claimed yesterday that FIFA could learn much from how the IOC reformed following the Salt Lake City bribery scandal in 1998.

"We're in the last month or so of where the 2018 Winter Olympics goes and I actually was reading the bid books again this morning, they're spending something like $70 million ($43 million) on their bids, these [three] cities," he said.

"Now, there's been no suggestion of any impropriety there but...there was previously and 14 IOC members were shown the door back after Salt Lake City.

"I think one of the lessons that FIFA's probably learning is that it's certainly open to abuse, whether there's money changing hands or not, but in trading votes when you put the decisions on two World Cups together."

Coates had caused controversy himself during the bidding process for the World Cup when he claimed that Australia's campaign for the 2022 event had been manipulated by "sinister forces" following a series of allegations in newspapers owned by the Fairfax group, including the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Australia was among the countries swept aside as Qatar were controversially awarded the tournament.

But if Qatar did break any rules then Coates does not think anything can be done to rectify the situation.

"I don't know what the Australian Government can do," he said.

"I think the report of the Government's funding into the Australian soccer bid has already been discussed at senate estimates and my understanding is there's been no untoward approaches to the Australian camp.

"But it is important that all bidding systems, whether it be for Olympic games, World Cups or World Championships in any other sport, are above board, are conducted with full integrity and so really, the onus is now back on FIFA to investigate its own."

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