Fifa to probe construction of lavish ‘Home of Football’ in Auckland
Wellington — The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) said on Monday it would investigate "potential wrongdoings" after a Fifa audit into construction of its lavish new Auckland headquarters raised corruption concerns.
The move comes after the sudden resignation of OFC president David Chung two days before a meeting to discuss the Fifa findings.
Chung resigned on Friday citing "personal reasons", but Fifa subsequently revealed its audit raised concerns about construction of a sports hub in Auckland that Chung said would become "The Home of Football" in the Pacific region in the Auckland project.
Fifa said it had temporarily suspended OFC funding, part of a zero-tolerance approach to corruption introduced in response to numerous scandals that have tarnished its reputation in recent years.
The OFC said it agreed to meet all Fifa requirements to resume funding, conduct a forensic audit of the case and carry out its own investigation.
"The OFC executive committee has appointed an external lawyer to lead an internal investigation into potential wrongdoings and to take legal action if required," it said.
The Fifa audit raised concerns about construction of a sports hub in Auckland that Chung said would become "The Home of Football" in the Pacific region.
With a reported budget of NZ$15m ($10.9m), it was a pet project of Chung, the head of Papua New Guinea football who had led the OFC since 2010.
The New York Times reported that Chung and former OFC general secretary Tai Nicholas awarded contracts for the scheme without tender to companies with no track record in the area.
It claimed the audit showed many of the companies were set up just before the contracts were awarded and questioned their relationship with those driving the project.
The newspaper alleged the OFC’s executive committee was planning to suspend Chung for "gross dereliction of duty or an act of improper conduct" at a meeting on Sunday before he fell on his sword.
Nicholas quietly resigned in December, also citing personal reasons.
The OFC has long had issues with governance and transparency. Chung’s predecessor Reynald Temarii of Tahiti was forced out in 2010 after being implicated in a vote-selling scandal during an undercover newspaper sting.
In November former Guam FA president Richard Lai, who served on Fifa’s auditing body, was barred from football for life after admitting he accepted almost $1m in kickbacks.
OFC’s current headquarters in Auckland, opened only eight years ago, is named after former president Charlie Dempsey, who created an uproar in 2000 during the vote to award the 2006 World Cup.
Dempsey had been instructed by Oceania to vote for South Africa but abstained from the final ballot, effectively handing the 2006 tournament to Germany.
He later said he withdrew after being placed under "intolerable pressure" but never fully explained his actions.
Reports in German media in 2015 alleged Dempsey had been paid $250,000 on the eve of the vote by a sports marketing firm linked to the German bid.