Address by Mr Frank Lowy AC Chairman, Football Federation of Australia National Press Club, Canberra

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Ken Randall, President of the National Press Club,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the invitation to address you today.

I’ve never faced the nation’s media en masse like this before, and I must say that contrary to your reputation, you all look friendly enough!

First – it’s really been a big week for football.

I’m ecstatic that the Socceroos qualified for the 2010 World Cup to be held in South Africa, just the second time we’ve qualified since 1974.

The last time we qualified in 2005 we did it by the skin of our teeth – in a penalty shoot-out in the last game of the last qualifying round. In fact, we were the last team in the world to qualify.

Now, with one game to go against Japan this week, we are on top of our group, winning five games and drawing two; scoring 10 goals with seven clean sheets – that’s seven games with no goals against.

That says a lot about how far we’ve come. The Socceroos and coach Pim Verbeek deserve enormous recognition for that.

Yesterday we officially launched Australia’s bid to host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

We have embarked on a Herculean task.

Victory would fulfil our wildest dreams.

But even the worst outcome – failing to win either – unthinkable though it is, would still leave a legacy that makes embarking on this journey worthwhile: certainly for the game of football in Australia, but also for the wider community.

So we enter the battle confidently, and we enter it to win; but we enter it mindful that we will need to wrest every vote from very powerful, well qualified nations whose ambition to host the World Cup is every bit as fierce as ours.

Let me answer the naysayers upfront and get that out of the way.

There are some who say we are small fry in world football; that Australia is too far away; that the 2018 World Cup must return to Europe after South Africa next year and Brazil in 2014.

There are some who say that the tremendous resources and energy required to mount the campaign is a distraction from more urgent tasks at home. That we should focus instead on developing the grassroots, and nurturing the new national A-League competition and so on.

These are all valid points, and believe me we have weighed them carefully. And I have an answer to each of them.

But the short answer to all the questions about why we should be bidding for the World Cup now is the same answer I gave a few years ago to the naysayers who said football was destined to remain the laughing stock of Australian sport.

When I was asked to become Chairman of FFA in 2003 my approach was simple.

Football is the world game.

It is actively followed by 5 billion people on every continent.

FIFA has more member countries than the United Nations. FIFA has 208 and the UN has 192.

Football has more grassroots support in Australia than any other sporting code.

Quite simply, it was time for football in Australia to lift up its head and start thinking and behaving as though it was part of the world game.

Boldness was called for.

Not arrogance, because arrogance in sport, as in most walks of life, is ultimately self-defeating.

But football needed to be bold, to demonstrate a bit of flair and optimism and belief in itself.

There were certainly good reasons why Australian football had languished for so long, but there was no good reason why it should languish forever.

So this was the philosophy I have tried to bring to the revival of football in Australia generally.

And you have seen the results. The ethnic rivalries have gone. Families now make up the majority of spectators. Sponsorship is strong. Football is now respected as one of Australia’s mainstream sporting codes. And the Socceroos are, again, among the 32 nations of the World to participate in the FIFA World Cup.

The philosophy that underpinned the revival of football at a local level is the same that motivates our World Cup bid.

Being timid in world football gets you nowhere, and taking the easy option of standing on the sidelines while the rest of the world goes for the big prizes, is never going to be an option.

In any case, standing on the sidelines is not in my DNA.

For those not familiar with the World Cup process, let me outline the challenge ahead.

The FIFA World Cup consists of two parts:

  1. The qualification phase involving all member nations – which Australia will finish this Wednesday with a match against Japan in Melbourne; and,
  2. The finals involving 32 teams after the qualification phase is complete – this event is the FIFA World Cup.

The decision on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be made in December 2010.

This is the first time that a decision for two World Cups will be made at the same time.

We have already been working on this for the last 12 months and we have another 18 months to continue to inform, impress, influence and inspire the 24 men of the FIFA Executive Committee who make the decision.

To win it, we require 13 votes.

Our competitors are all worthy in different ways; and all, except perhaps two, can mount a reasonable case.

They are: England; Spain & Portugal; Belgium & Netherlands; Russia; Qatar; Indonesia; Japan; Korea; Mexico and the United States. (By the way, Japan & Korea co-hosted the 2002 World Cup).

The first question we have to answer for FIFA is: “Why Asia?”

For a start, since the World Cup began 80 years ago, the Asia Football Confederation, has hosted the World Cup just once before, in 2002. The Oceania Football Confederation has never hosted it.

In fact, Australia is the only continent not to have hosted it.

But there is a much bigger point to be made.

The weight of the world is with Asia.

Asia’s political power is rising tremendously. Global institutions like the UN, the IMF and others are grappling with how to deal with this act of life.

The wealth of Asia continues to grow. It is where the customers are – for goods and services; and for football.

In fact, the biggest television audience for the World Cup, by far, lies in Asia, not Europe or America.

And in 2014 Asia will reach a historic tipping point.

According to IATA, from that date there will be more people flying in Asia than in Europe or America.

And Europe was conquered long ago.

Another World Cup in Europe would undoubtedly be successful.

It would draw crowds and it would be professionally run.

But it is a mature market – it is already overflowing with the highest quality football on a weekly basis.

There are the premier leagues of each nation; the UEFA Champions League; the Europa Cup; and more.

The World Cup in Europe is like putting a cherry on top of a gigantic chocolate cake.

And the United States, even under the rosiest scenarios, will remain problematic for football given the unique characteristics of that market and the entrenched competition from other sports.

So in making a decision for 2018 and 2022 FIFA has an historic opportunity to “go for growth” and turbo charge the process already underway in Asia.

And if FIFA agrees with this logic, the next question is “Why Australia?”

I don’t want to spend too much time today preaching to the converted. I trust you all agree Australia would make a splendid World Cup host.

But let me briefly make the case for Australia, above and beyond the powerful case I’ve just made for Asia:

  1. We are a safe pair of hands. We do these big events very well, and the world knows it. The description of the Sydney Olympics as “the best games ever” still resonates not because it was great rhetoric, but because it was true.

    The organisation, logistics, the feeling and spirit of Sydney 2000 remains the high water mark for international sporting events.

    The world still fondly remembers the 40,000 volunteers who helped make the Games such a success. That spirit would be on display again, not just in Sydney, but right across Australia.

    Not even our fiercest competitors doubt our capacity to deliver a thoroughly professional, well-organised World Cup.

  2. We have unstinting support from all levels of government to mount a genuine national bid. This is a critically important factor for FIFA who understand that while the football organisation itself, the FFA, runs the bid, the venture can only succeed with total support from government.

    From the outset the Prime Minister has provided unequivocal support, and his personal involvement, including a direct appeal to delegates at last year’s FIFA Congress in Sydney, has made a huge impact. That support was echoed at our official launch of the bid yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull. And all State Governments through the COAG process have committed themselves to the national effort.

  3. We can deliver the infrastructure. FIFA has stringent technical requirements which must be met. For the 2018 and 2022 bids, we have been advised that we must have:

    • A minimum of 12 stadia, at least two of which must hold 80,000 fans
    • 10 stadia which must hold a minimum of 45,000 fans
    • Training facilities for 32 teams; and,
    • Five-star accommodation for a minimum of four teams, the FIFA organisation and match officials in every host city.

    While the existing stadia we have, especially the two big ones in the MCG in Melbourne and ANZ Stadium in Sydney, are world-class it is clear that a significant investment in new and existing stadia will be needed to meet the FIFA requirements.

    FFA has done the homework to identify these opportunities and there are a number of options under consideration ranging from reconfiguration of existing stadia through to new purpose-built stadia which can be adapted for ongoing use after the World Cup.

    Our timeline for submitting the bid is May 2010 and our decisions on host cities and host stadia needs to be finalised by the end of this year.

    So there is obviously much to be done between now and then to co-ordinate this major investment in critical infrastructure, and we are in deep discussion with Federal and State Governments.

    But remember, for the purpose of the bid there need only be a commitmentfor the investment. The actual investment would of course only proceed if we were to win the right to host one of the two World Cups on offer.

  4. Weather, distance and time zones. The Australian climate delivers perfect football weather in June and July. In many northern hemisphere World Cups the temperatures have been stifling, making life difficult on pitch for the players and off pitch for the spectators.

    Too much is made of our so-called geographic isolation and time zone differences.

    Firstly, we think the 1 billion viewers in China, and the billions in India, Japan, Korea, and South East Asia, will appreciate being close to our time zone.

    Secondly, with careful attention to match scheduling, both in timing and location around Australia, we are confident we can still accommodate the European audience for all key matches.

  5. Goodwill and interest in Australia. I don’t want to overstate this point because every nation will claim for itself some special status one way or the other. But I genuinely believe it is a strong point in our favour.

    Australia has generated enormous goodwill in world football over the past few years, especially during the last World Cup in Germany. The Socceroos excited everyone. At every match, if you were a neutral supporter invariably you ended up cheering on the Socceroos. We played a fresh, exciting brand of football which was hard but fair, and we shook up some of the best teams in the world. And the Aussie fans in Germany were great ambassadors – their enthusiasm and friendliness was applauded by football officials, and the general public.

    And it’s worth noting that in terms of ticket sales to the 2006 World Cup, Australians ranked 5th in the world – a remarkable fact given our relatively small population.

    I’m sure you all recall how we lost in the dying seconds to Italy, who went on to win the World Cup. I must tell you I was distraught for days afterwards. But once I got over the loss I could take some comfort from the fact that we had announced ourselves on the world stage, and that we could leverage that performance at home and abroad.

    The memory might have faded a little for some of you. But our journey to the 2006 World Cup ignited an interest in football that took Australia by storm. Our penalty goal shootout against Uruguay in 2005, and then the excitement of Germany, generated scenes here at home that went around the world, and it has become part of Australian sporting folklore.

    I do believe that goodwill towards Australia exists, and that people from around the world have a genuine interest in Australia and in visiting here.

  6. Respect for our achievements

    It is not a coincidence that senior Members of the FFA have been recognised by FIFA and the AFC, and are now serving on key Committees of regional and World football. We have the first Australian to ever become a Member – even a Vice President – of the Asian Football Confederation’s Executive Committee, and I was appointed a member on the FIFA World Cup Committee.

These points are the essence of our appeal to the FIFA Executive Committee and each one is backed up by a lot more detail than I can share with you today.

There is also a raft of benefits that will flow to Australia if we are successful, and which help justify the large investment we are asking of the nation.

Those who don’t follow football sometimes fail to comprehend the sheer scale of the World Cup.

It totally dwarfs all other major sporting events and even out-rivals the Olympics.

We commissioned Price WaterhouseCoopers to undertake an economic impact analysis of hosting the World Cup and the Confederations Cup which is a smaller tournament played in the preceding year to the World Cup itself.

A joint PWC/Monash University study estimated the impact as a $5.3 billion increase in GDP and a cumulative employment effect of 74,000 jobs.

It delivers 12 times the GDP impact of the Formula One and Australian Tennis Open combined.

It delivers 15 times the employment impact of those two events.

The flow-on tourism potential is obvious, not just to our cities, but to regions that otherwise wouldn’t get this sort of intense international exposure.

I don’t think I need to spend too much time on what hosting the World Cup would do for the game in Australia – it would be like injecting high octane fuel into game development here.

Generations of new talent would be inspired by the event and it would provide a platform for growth for decades to come.

What I would like to talk about briefly now is what it would do for Australia beyond the economic impact and the legacy of new and much needed infrastructure.

What it would do for Australia in the world, but especially in Asia.

I spoke about Asia earlier – it is where our future lies, economically and in football.

This is why I worked so hard to move Australia from the Oceania Football Confederation to the Asian Football Confederation in 2006.

Being in the AFC gives us more games, against better teams, bigger audiences and of course, more revenue.

It involves not just the Socceroos, but A-League clubs, and over time our entire football community will develop links in one way or another with Asia.

And the benefits flow both ways.

Asia did not invite us in because they had 45 members and thought they’d like 46.

Far from it.

We are there because we can add value to Asia. Our teams can help raise the standard.

Australia has highly developed facilities and training programs that can be shared with developing football countries in the region.

But beyond all that, what excites me most about Australian football is what it can do for the country as a whole.

It is the same thing that motivated me to establish the Lowy Institute for International Policy, which I am pleased to say, is making a serious contribution to the discussion about Australia’s place in the world.

I have worked hard over the past six years to reconnect us with the world football community – from FIFA President Sepp Blatter, through to people trying to build a pitch in the Solomon Islands, and everyone in between.

If all this activity has told me anything, it is that football works at all levels, it speaks to all peoples.

It opens doors and builds friendships like nothing else.

It can do this better than business; better than governments; better than any individual could ever hope to do.

But when it all comes together – football, business, government – it’s a very powerful force.

And that force can be put to work for Australia’s interests in all sorts of ways.

I can assure you that this fact is not lost on our Prime Minister

So ladies and gentlemen, we are playing for big stakes in bidding for a World Cup.

But it is not a reckless gamble.

Any investment during the campaign for the bid is relatively modest.

The big investments need only flow once we are assured of hosting one of the World Cups.

The prize is too big not to go for it. And we have a better than even chance.

All of us at the FFA will devote ourselves fully to the task.

I have the personal commitment of our political leaders.

We have the goodwill and support of other sporting codes around the country.

And we will now embark on a mission to enlist all Australians in what we hope will be an exciting and ultimately successful campaign to bring the greatest show on earth to Australia.

Thank you.

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