Sydney (AFP) – The English FA came in for stinging criticism Friday after voting for Colombia to host the 2023 women’s World Cup over Australia and New Zealand, with football bosses calling it “disrespectful”.
An historic joint bid by the trans-Tasman neighbours was the overwhelming favourite and won 22 of the 35 valid votes cast by FIFA Council members.
But closer examination of the voting, which was made public after controversies over the awarding of previous World Cups, showed English Football Association chairman Greg Clarke siding with Colombia.
This is despite Australia and New Zealand being old allies and their joint bid scoring far higher in the FIFA evaluation report than their South American rivals.
Clarke also reportedly snubbed a phone call from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as she lobbied to get the bid over the line.
“I actually don’t find it very funny,” Football Federation Australia chief executive James Johnson told Fox Sports of the English stance.
“I think that was quite disrespectful to be perfectly honest with you. It was a process that was, I think, run very well by FIFA… we scored very highly on a report that was an objective report.
“We know now what the voting was like, and I must say we are disappointed with the way that the FA voted.”
Clarke’s decision to go for Colombia was in line with the way UEFA voted, with the European bloc justifying their move in a statement.
“It was a choice between two countries — Australia and New Zealand where women’s football is already strongly established, and a continent where it still has to be firmly implanted and has a huge development potential,” it said.
New Zealand Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell said a “scheduling issue” may have prevented Clarke from speaking to the popular Ardern.
“I’m not sure as to the detail of that, it could have been a scheduling issue,” New Zealand Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell told AFP.
“I haven’t read too much into that, I think I saw it on a tweet and don’t know too much further on that one.”