'Low act': England's 'staggering' move against Trans-Tasman World Cup

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Greg Clarke reportedly refused a phone call from Jacinda Ardern. Image: Getty

Details are emerging about UEFA’s vote against Australia and New Zealand to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, with English Football Association chairman Greg Clarke reportedly refusing to take a phone call from NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Australia and New Zealand were awarded the right to host the World Cup on Friday morning, but there was a major shock when UEFA snubbed the trans-Tasman bid and block voted for Colombia despite an inferior evaluation report.

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Australia and New Zealand scored 4.1 out of five on the report with Colombia totalling 2.9.

The joint bid bettered the South Americans in every criteria - stadiums, team and referee facilities, accommodation, International Broadcast Centre (IBC) and competition-related event sites and commercial.

Japan's withdrawal from the bidding process earlier this week saw the Asian Football Confederation unite and back the Australian-New Zealand submission at the FIFA Council meeting along with the Oceania representatives.

That was expected to secure a comfortable passage for the joint bid but the waters were muddied somewhat after it emerged the Europeans were surprisingly siding with Colombia.

England chief refuses call from Jacinda Ardern

It led to some nervous moments before the decision was announced early on Friday (AEST), when it was reported by The Guardian that Clarke had refused to take a phone call from Ardern.

The New Zealand PM is said to have called around to a number of associations in a bid to garner support.

According to The Guardian, Clarke and French representative Noel Le Graet were “frustrated at the position they found themselves” after a “perceived steamrollering of the decision.”

Guardian reporter Suzanne Wrack said Clarke would have been conscious of the fact he’s up for re-election as a UEFA representative on the FIFA council next year and probably wanted to toe the line to keep the Europeans onside as England bids to host the men’s 2030 World Cup.

“Wow, Greg Clarke, the chairman of the English FA, voted for Colombia instead of a technically superior bid from Australia & N Zealand,” UK football writer Matt Slater tweeted.

“If he followed UEFA’s lead & backed Colombia it could, theoretically, get Europe behind UK/Ire for 2030 WC. But that would annoy Asia/Oceania voters. It would also undermine impact of a good technical report. Can’t have it both ways.”

Aussies slam ‘disrespectful’ England move

Football Federation Australia chief executive James Johnson labelled the England FA ‘disrespectful’.

“I actually don't find it very funny,” Johnson told Fox Sports.

“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.”

Australian media veteran Eddie McGuire was filthy on Friday morning when word of Clarke and UEFA’s actions came out.

“It’s good to see that England has voted in solidity with Europe ... that’s the mob they’ve just ‘Brexited’ from, remember that?”, McGuire said on Triple M radio.

“So just remember, next time we have a world war and you call us up, we’ll remember, OK?

“That is staggering that the Poms could look themselves in the mirror today not voting (for Australia and New Zealand).

“Here’s the other block they’re involved in mate, it’s called the Commonwealth, how about that one?

“They’ve voted... Columbia or Australia and New Zealand, ‘Ah OK, which ones? That’d be the ANZACs wouldn’t it? Yeah, that’s good we remember them at Gallipoli don’t we? Two world wars, yeah yeah yeah, sent all the food parcels over during the wars, yeah nah we’ll vote for Colombia’.

“Fair dinkum. So when they come, remember OK? What a low act.”

Australian officials and players react after being awarded the 2023 Women's World Cup. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Australian and New Zealand win vote 22-13

With FIFA chairman Gianni Infantino and the CAF (Africa) and CONCACAF (North America) delegates voting in favour of Australia and New Zealand, a 22-13 winning margin was secured.

Infantino admitted he was surprised to see a block vote in favour of Colombia from football's most powerful confederation but refused to criticise the decision, calling it “democracy”.

UEFA said in a statement their vote for Colombia was an attempt to try to increase the growth of the women's game in South America.

“Even though the Colombian bid was not the one rated highest technically by FIFA, European members of the FIFA Council felt that it represented a strategic opportunity for the development of women's football in South America thanks to the legacy and increase of attention for the women's game that the tournament would bring to the continent,” he said.

“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's important to add that European members of the FIFA Council agreed to vote together on major issues as a matter of solidarity.”

with AAP