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Australia in the clear

SYDNEY, July 23 – FIFA has cleared Australia of any wrongdoing in its bid to host the 2022 World Cup, after allegations of bribery, football officials said on Friday.Football Federation Australia (FFA) said the world body found there was no case to answer after The Age newspaper reported gifts of jewellery and free travel for delegates.

"FIFA wrote to FFA overnight to say there were no grounds to open a case and the matter was closed," the FFA said in a statement.

The FFA this month said it had started defamation proceedings against the newspaper, which detailed the gifts and said officials tried to conceal multi-million dollar lobbyist payments from the government.

The government also investigated the claims but found no evidence of wrongdoing. The FFA had strongly defended its bid, saying it was "common practice" to give "symbolic gifts" to delegates.

"We stated all along that those damaging allegations were false," said CEO chief Ben Buckley on Friday. "Subsequently we have been cleared by the federal government, independent auditors and now by FIFA.

"With this behind us we can now concentrate on our bid to bring the biggest sporting event in the world to Australia in 2022."

A delegation of FIFA inspectors will arrive next week to review Australia’s bid during a two-month tour to inspect the nine bidders for the 2018 or 2022 tournaments.

The delegation is responsible for conducting the technical evaluation of the bids and will also visit Japan, South Korea, Netherlands and Belgium, Russia, England, Spain and Portugal, the United States and Qatar.

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The FIFA inspection team consists of six delegates and is led by Chilean Football Federation President, Harold Mayne-Nicholls.

FFA said the delegation will submit an objective report to help FIFA’s 24-member executive select a host for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which will be announced in Zurich on December 2.

"We are totally focused on bringing the FIFA World Cup to Australia in 2022," FFA chairman Frank Lowy said in a statement. "It is a dream, an ambition and an aspiration shared by all Australians."

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