Australia demands FIFA reform

SYDNEY, May 31, 2011 (AFP) - Senior Australian officials have demanded reform at FIFA, saying it is clear that change is needed after the acrimonious mud-slinging that has rocked world football's governing body.

Les Murray, one of the 13 members of the FIFA Ethics Committee that suspended Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner following allegations they offered bribes, said the organisation was tarnished.

"I think the reform has to be very deep," he told the Sydney Morning Herald from Zurich.

"In all reality, there probably has to be complete structural and also constitutional reform," he said in comments published Tuesday.

"The structure of the organisation at the moment is too political. Decisions are based on political motives, and that's not healthy for any organisation. That simply has to change."

FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Monday shrugged off the corruption allegations engulfing the organisation he has fronted for 13 years, denying it was in crisis and ruling out a new vote for the 2022 World Cup.

AFP - FIFA President Sepp Blatter gestures during a press conference on May 30, 2011 at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, focused on the corruption row that has engulfed football's governing body and threatened his own stranglehold on the top job in the sport.

The Swiss was speaking two days before he is due to be re-elected unopposed by FIFA's congress following the stunning withdrawal of rival Bin Hammam, the head of the Asian Football Confederation.

The Qatari pulled out of the bitter race just hours before the Ethics Committee suspended him and Warner, the influential head of the Caribbean, North and Central American federation (CONCACAF).

The pair were accused of attempting to bribe voters in the election with cash payments of up to $40,000. Bin Hammam claims his suspension was politically motivated and has said he will appeal.

Blatter was cleared of corruption by the same committee over claims he knew about the payments.

Australian Sports Minister Mark Arbib said it was clear FIFA needed to change.

"There is no doubt there needs to be reform of FIFA. This is something that we're hearing worldwide," he said.

"Football lovers are concerned about the goings-on of the past weeks and also during the (2022) bid.

"There is no doubt now that there needs to be a thorough investigation of all of the claims made, by the Ethics Committee, but certainly everyone would accept, even FIFA must accept, there must be reform of the organisation."

Australia was humiliated in the race to host the 2022 World Cup, receiving only one vote as Qatar went on to beat the United States by 14 votes to eight.

Warner claimed on Monday Qatar had "bought" the world's biggest sports extravaganza, claims Doha has denied.

Arbib would not be drawn on whether Australia will push to have a new vote for the 2022 tournament.

"I've said in the past we will consider whether a second bid would take place. It would depend on the circumstances and also if there has been corruption by members of the FIFA Executive or the Qatar bid," he said.

Australian Independent senator Nick Xenophon accused FIFA of "scamming" Australia out of the Aus$46 million (US$49 million) it spent on its World Cup bid.

"Until the investigation into FIFA has been completed, Australia must hold off spending any more taxpayers' money on any future World Cup bids," he said.

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