By Peter FitzSimons, Sydney Morning Herald

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

Really? Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the announcement in Canberra of the 2023 bid for the Women’s World Cup in Australia. Photo: Andrew Meares

Fool me both times using taxpayers’ money and I reckon you have a political embarrassment in the making.

I refer, of course, to the announcement by the Turnbull government on Tuesday that Australia is not only going to bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup of Soccer, but that the government will put up as much as $5 million towards it and …

And yes, I know. You are recalling what happened last time the government backed such a proposal, putting no less than $45 million to try and host the 2022 World Cup. You’re recalling that all Australia got for its trouble was complete humiliation and only so many votes as you could count on the fingers of one finger! You’re remembering that instead of us, the bloody thing went to Qatar, one of the hottest countries on earth, with no large population to provide fans, no developed infrastructure to host games or soccer fans from other countries, and no politically stable environment. A terrific piece in the Herald at the time – and as a matter of fact I wrote it – called it “the most obviously corrupt sporting decision of all-time”.

And now, just half a decade later, we are going back to FIFA, asking them if they will play nice this time, and consider our proposal on its merits, not on who greases whose palm for votes?

Sports Minister Greg Hunt, apparently, is convinced they’re all honest now, and I am not making that up!

“I am satisfied on the advice we’ve had [FIFA is clean],” he said.

Really, Minister?

Advice from whom?

FIFA themselves? Or someone else? Can you tell us?

Did you talk, perchance, to new FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who last year sacked his ethics team, and not in a good way. Or did you talk perchance to FIFA’s £1million-a-year general secretary, Fatma Samoura, the woman who the Guardian reported a fortnight ago, was “in charge of FIFA’s internal austerity, and found by auditors to be spending £22,000 of FIFA’s money on having her home cleaned five-times a week. Fifa says Samoura repaid the sum, “when she discovered the issue”.

Or did you even talk to Australia’s own, admirable, Moya Dodd, who was on FIFA’s council until recently, when she was replaced by a woman who couldn’t even name the current women’s world champions! Does any of that sound to you like FIFA is now running a clean operation?

Minister, please. Prime Minister, you’re kidding. This is a nonsense, and an obvious waste of money.

This is not an attack on the worth or otherwise of women’s soccer. This year, particularly, will be remembered as the one where women’s sport in Australia leapt forward in leaps and bounds, as so many other sports try to catch up to the hugely successful AFL women’s comp.

By all means spend that money on Australian women’s sport. Double it, triple it, quadruple it. There’ll be no complaints from anyone, and it will be money well spent. But put it into grassroots development where there is a guaranteed return to the citizenry, and best of all to the junior female citizenry. Putting it towards persuading the virtueless FIFA as to our own virtues, is a hopeless, embarrassing, waste of time – and taxpayers’ money.

Or did I mention that?


Peter FitzSimons is managed by The Fordham Company.

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