Text exchanges between Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Reece Kershaw and PwC partner Mick Fuller have revealed more extensive conversations between the pair than the commissioner previously suggested to parliament.
Commissioner Kershaw has been challenged on whether he failed to declare a conflict of interest over his friendship with the former New South Wales police commissioner-turned PwC partner, after it was revealed the pair had met several times in relation to a $794,000 contract awarded to the accounting firm without a public tender.
In May, under questioning in Senate estimates, an AFP official said Commissioner Kershaw did not declare a conflict of interest over his friendship with Mr Fuller because despite commissioning the review, he did not do the procurement.
Asked what communication Commissioner Kershaw had with Mr Fuller "since the PwC scandal broke", the commissioner responded he had received "one SMS from Mick".
But text exchanges obtained by Greens senator David Shoebridge show the pair chatting on about a dozen different occasions since the start of this year, when Peter-John Collins was first banned as a tax agent after he shared confidential Treasury briefings to help clients get around a planned multinational tax.
The AFP is now investigating Mr Collins over those allegations.
Senator Shoebridge said he was yet to be assured that the AFP could conduct an independent criminal investigation into a former PwC partner while it maintained contracts with the firm.
Separate to the $794,000 contract to review the AFP's services provided to ACT Policing, the AFP has several contracts for internal auditing services with PwC.
Commissioner Kershaw said in May he had the "utmost confidence" the right systems were in place within the force to avoid a conflict of interest.
Senator Shoebridge said the SMS exchanges between the commissioner and Mr Fuller would be examined when the AFP is recalled for questioning on Friday morning.
"I cannot understand why a conflict of interest hasn't been put in, and these documents only heighten my concerns. And in fact they do it in circumstances where the AFP is still hiding 90 per cent of the material, we got a seriously redacted exchange," Senator Shoebridge said.
"What we can see is it shows a very extensive connection, and one would have thought that the integrity measures in the AFP would require a conflict of interest."
Conversations released under freedom of information laws cover multiple exchanges between January this year and June.
In January, Commissioner Kershaw congratulates and thanks Mr Fuller on an unknown matter, before Mr Fuller replies, "Hopefully when over we can have beer".
In February, on Whatsapp, Mr Fuller comments to the commissioner on an unspecified leak: "What a terrible leak against us and the AFP (hand on head emoji)."
There was no text response from Commissioner Kershaw to that message but Mr Fuller later follows up with "Thanks (prayer hands emoji)".
In late March, the pair joke about a story featuring a close-up photo of Commissioner Kershaw.
Mick Fuller: "I didn't read the story because you look 30. Come one mate your killing the old blokes."
Reece Kershaw: "Haha I have a great photoshop team"
The pair messaged each other on at least nine separate days from January until May 24, when Mr Fuller offers to give the commissioner space so as not to "complicate" his life, following the referral of Mr Collins to police for investigation.
There is one more exchange after that day until June, in which Commissioner Kershaw congratulates Mr Fuller on being awarded an Order of Australia, and Mr Fuller responds: "Thanks commissioner. Appreciate the message".
Commissioner Kershaw is set to face further questioning over the contracts in an additional Senate hearing on Friday.
Senator Shoebridge said the exchanges gave an insight into the extent of the relationship between the commissioner and Mr Fuller.
"When we're talking about the agency that has been tasked with a criminal investigation of PwC, well the public should expect not just justice being done, but justice being seen to be done," Senator Shoebridge said.
"And that means the highest levels of scrutiny, the highest levels of integrity and I would have thought ensuring that those walls are put in place for the integrity of the investigation."
The AFP declined a request for comment, but has previously told the ABC it "categorically rejects" that Commissioner Kershaw should have declared the relationship.
Posted , updated
Riyadh (AFP) – The Saudi Pro League kicks off on Friday amid unprecedented attention on Saudi football following a year of high-profile transfers and growing accusations of "sportswashing".
Clubs in the oil-rich Gulf state have lured global stars, with Karim Benzema, Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane among those following in Cristiano Ronaldo's footsteps.
Last month Al-Hilal made a 300-million-euro ($328 million) bid for Kylian Mbappe, though the Paris Saint-Germain striker reportedly refused to meet with officials from the club.
Eighteen clubs will take part in the league, with each allowed eight foreign players.
"Saudi Arabia aspires to be like the English Premier League," said Simon Chadwick, professor of Sport and Geopolitical Economy at Skema Business School in Paris.
"The media is paying attention," he told AFP.
"I'm aware of people now asking the question: where can I watch the Saudi Pro League?".
Just five years after allowing its first non-Muslim tourists and letting women drive, Saudi Arabia is attempting to open up its conservative, long-cloistered society to the world.
The world's biggest oil exporter has thrown hundreds of millions at sports deals including Ronaldo's capture, Formula One in Jeddah and the lucrative LIV Golf tour, drawing frequent claims it is "sportswashing" its human rights record.
It is all part of grand plans by the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to modernise the Saudi economy and remove its reliance on oil before the world moves on to other fuels.
Moqbel Al-Zabni, editor-in-chief of the Saudi capital's Al Riyadiah newspaper said that the kingdom wants "the compass of professional football to point to the Middle East and the Arab world".
Ronaldo's arrival in January to play for the Riyadh-based Al-Nassr club is what first drew global attention to ongoing efforts to boost the Saudi Pro League.
The kingdom is offering eye-watering salaries that have lured celebrity players, rising stars and top coaches.
"I've worked in sport for 40 years and I've never seen a project as big, as ambitious and as determined to be a success," British director Peter Hutton, who sits on the league's board, told the BBC.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said the Saudi league has "completely changed the market" and he expects more high-profile players to move there.
The influx has taken place despite frequent criticism that Saudi Arabia's lavish spending amounts to an attempt to shift the focus from its record on human rights.
"Most of the headlines are about Saudi attracting big players, not the long prison sentences handed down to activists," a Western diplomat in Riyadh told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
However, the kingdom still faces a series of challenges before it could rise to the helm of global football, said Egyptian sports journalist and TV host Amir Abd Elhalim.
"There are challenges at all levels," he said, including respecting the contracts and entitlements of new players.
Last month, FIFA hit Al Nassr with a transfer ban, blocking the club from registering new players.
It was issued after Al Nassr failed to make a payment of £390,000 to Leicester City for the 2018 transfer of Nigeria striker Ahmed Musa.
Chadwick, the professor, said that Saudi football is still "very much a work in progress".
"We're probably looking at the next five to ten years before determining whether there is a long-term sustainable and fundamental change," the expert added.
One test, he said, will be Saudi clubs' performances in the Asian Champions League.
A second test will be the extent to which the Saudi Pro League can sustain long-term engagement from football fans, who fly from all the world to watch the English Premier League.
"Is it going to be the same in Saudi Arabia?" Chadwick asked.
"Are we going to see Chinese tourists heading to Riyadh or are we going to see German tourists heading together to watch football?"
© 2023 AFP
The federal police released a public statement on September 14, 2018, describing how the “Radiance International group of companies”, which were owned by Bhojani, had been allegedly “involved in at least five instances of bribery of the Nauruan officials” over the previous three years. It released another public statement in August 2020 to announce Bhojani’s conviction.
Bhojani quit as a director of the family company that year, but, despite the police action and Home Affairs’ knowledge, the contracts with Radiance International continued. The company was still being paid in June this year.
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald’s Home Truths investigation has revealed the extent of suspect payments and alleged bribery that occurred on both Manus Island and Nauru relating to Australia’s offshore processing system. The revelations prompted Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil to announce an inquiry, helmed by former senior public servant Dennis Richardson, into procurement contracts surrounding Australia’s offshore processing regime.
O’Neil, Dutton and the Home Affairs department all declined to comment further on Friday.
Dutton and Gaughan have both pointed the finger at the department, saying it had known about the criminal investigation. Dutton told the ABC 7.30 program that the AFP would have given the information to “the secretary of the department [Mike Pezzullo] or to other officials across the Commonwealth with the appropriate clearance.
“And if the department makes a procurement decision or enters into a contract [with someone] about whom there is intelligence available, that is an issue for the department,” he said.
Gaughan said the AFP – which at the time was part of the Home Affairs portfolio – had briefed the department but could not say when. Asked why nothing had happened as a result, he said: “I can’t speak on behalf of the Department of Home Affairs”.
He also said the team investigating Bhojani’s company “was aware that Radiance International was receiving money from ... Home Affairs”. Again he could not say when investigators became aware, but documents reviewed by this masthead suggest it may have been as early as 2015.
Asked if the AFP had expressed concerns to Home Affairs that it was paying a police target, he said “not to my knowledge,” but undertook to answer the question later.
In answer to earlier Labor questioning about the Radiance International matter, the AFP said it had wrongly told parliament that Dutton had been warned Bhojani was under investigation just a month before Home Affairs signed a fresh, $9.2 million contract with his company.
But Gaughan on Friday corrected that, confirming a meeting with Dutton had taken place in July 2018, but only that he had been warned that the police were about to “go overt” (arrest) a person connected with Nauru, which might be controversial at a forthcoming series of international meetings.
Gaughan initially tried to blame “misreporting and commentary” for the police error, but later admitted the police “should have used tighter language”. The Age and Herald relied on the AFP’s answer to a parliamentary question on notice for a July 25 report on the issue.
The question asked by Labor senator Helen Polley was: “Did the AFP inform the then-minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, or his office that it was investigating Mr Bhojani and Radiance International Inc for foreign bribery?”
The written answer provided by the AFP was: “The AFP acting Commissioner provided a verbal briefing on the investigation to the then-minister for Home Affairs on or around 12 July 2018.” Dutton maintained that he had no recollection, and no record in his office, of the briefing taking place.
On Friday Gaughan said he had been at the meeting “with a number of other individuals,” including Border Force commissioner Michael Outram and senior Home Affairs officer Linda Geddes, which had canvassed “a foreign bribery matter”.
However, it was “not correct” to say Dutton was told specifically about Bhojani or his company, Radiance International, Gaughan said.
Gaughan did not address the fact the AFP had made a public announcement on September 14, 2018, that described the alleged involvement of Bhojani’s companies in corruption. Such media releases are routinely sent to the Home Affairs minister’s office.
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Repeated efforts by the Australian Tax Office to convince federal police to investigate PwC in 2018 failed because it did not have “the investigative powers” to secure key evidence.
For the first time the ATO has published a detailed timeline of the PwC scandal that confirms years of frustration at the firm allegedly withholding information about how it helped multinational companies avoid paying tax.
The timeline, which has been provided to a Senate committee, reveals that in August 2016 the ATO’s second commissioner, Jeremy Hirschhorn, directly raised his concerns with then-PwC chief executive, Luke Sayers, about concerns the firm was helping clients avoid multinational tax laws.
At another meeting two years later, it is alleged, Hirschhorn suggested Sayers “personally review the internal emails” that revealed how confidential tax policy information was shared within the firm.
The ATO also alleges that in February 2020 Hirschhorn told Sayers “PwC should ensure that it is fully abreast of the range of concerns the ATO has had with PwC’s Tax Group’s behaviour”.
In a statement, Sayers said he did not recall the ATO suggesting he read the internal emails.
“I did not personally review the tens of thousands of documents and emails which PwC provided to the ATO as part of these processes, nor do I recall that being suggested to me by the ATO,” Sayers said.
“I was not aware of the existence of a confidentiality agreement signed by Peter Collins until I read about it in the media this year. I regret that I did not know about the breach of it earlier as I would have taken firm action.”
The timeline was released in response to questions from the Labor senator Deborah O’Neill, who was critical of the firm for not acting until the scandal was made public this year. She accused the firm of being aware of alleged misconduct “for years” and doing “nothing to censure those who participated, or to meaningfully reform the culture of their organisation”.
PwC did not respond to O’Neill’s allegations but instead referred to an internal investigation being led by former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski, which is expected to be released in full in September. The firm’s senior executive team has already apologised for misusing confidential tax policy information, which was passed to partners working for multinational companies in the US.
A PwC spokesperson said: “We have also announced plans to divest our state and federal government business, exited those who have been found to have done the wrong thing as a result of our ongoing investigation into confidentiality breaches, ended political donations and installed new leadership, including announcing plans to appoint independent, non-executive directors to the PwC Australia governance board.”
The timeline also reveals the ATO first suspected former PwC parter Peter Collins had shared confidential tax policy information with colleagues in early October 2017 – almost four years before he was banned.
In March 2018, the ATO’s general counsel began preparing legal advice about secrecy provisions and “a possible breach of confidentiality”. That information was shared with the Australian federal police, which suggested “a pre-referral workshop to discuss available intelligence/evidence”.
After that workshop, the AFP said it needed more information before judging whether an offence had been committed. The ATO then sought more advice from the Australian government solicitor and began an “analysis as to whether PwC marketed or promoted tax exploitation schemes”.
In October 2018, the AFP agreed to further discussions with the ATO to consider its updated information, but again said it needed “further documentary evidence to determine if an offence has been committed”.
In November 2018, the ATO grew increasingly frustrated that it was not getting responses to “formal information gathering notices”, citing PwC legal professional privilege.
The ATO issued 15 notices to PwC between October 2016 and April 2021 seeking more information, “including client information withheld due to disputed legal professional privilege”.
The ATO considered many of these claims were “baseless” and requested advice from the commonwealth director of public prosecutions (CDPP) about possible prosecutions for non-compliance.
“The CDPP advised that it was unable to instigate a prosecution given it was unlikely that the ATO could provide the necessary evidence to enable the CDPP to prove the invalidity of the legal professional privilege claims beyond reasonable doubt,” the ATO timeline provided to the Senate committee said.
In late November 2018, the ATO engaged “internal criminal investigation specialists to assist with AFP engagement”. These specialists reviewed the ATO evidence to “test the prospect of successfully pursuing a referral to the AFP”.
By late January 2019, those specialists told the tax office that “unless the ATO can gather further evidence, there is insufficient evidence to support a referral”.
“The ATO did not have the investigative powers to obtain the evidence required,” the timeline said.
On 25 March 2019, the AFP confirmed it had closed its file on the matter and would not investigate it again until May 2023, when Treasury referred the matter to the AFP for criminal investigation.
The military coup in Niger last week raises the question of Europe's dependency on uranium mined in the West African nation for its nuclear power plants.
France's nuclear fuel firm Orano, formerly part of Areva, operates a uranium mine in the north of the country, employing some 900 mostly Nigeran staff.
The company said last week that it was monitoring the situation closely but that the seizure of power by the military had not for the moment affected the delivery of uranium supplies.
Niger accounts for only a small percentage of global production of natural uranium.
In 2021, it produced 4.7 percent of the world's total, far behind Kazakhstan at 45.2 percent, according to Euratom Supply Agency (ESA), which ensures Europe's supply of nuclear materials.
"In 2022, Niger was second largest supplier of natural uranium to the EU, with share of 25.38 percent," ESA told AFP.
"Kazakhstan, Niger, and Canada were the top three countries delivering natural uranium, providing 74.19 percent of the total," it added.
The European Union said Tuesday the bloc was not at risk of supply problems due to the coup.
"EU utilities have sufficient inventories of natural uranium to mitigate any short-term supply risks and for the medium and long term there are enough deposits on the world market to cover the EU needs," European Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz said.
For France, which operates 56 reactors that provide more than two-thirds of the nation's electricity, Niger was the number three source during the 2005-2020 period, accounting for 19 percent of the total, behind Kazakhstan and Australia.
For uranium, Niger "is no longer the strategic partner of Paris as it was in the 1960s or 1970s", said Alain Antil, head of the Sub-Saharan African centre at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).
- Stockpiling -
France's energy transition ministry said the situation in Niger doesn't pose any risk for natural uranium supplies as EDF, the operator of France's park of nuclear reactors, has worked to diversify its suppliers, while the foreign ministry said the country's suppliers were "extremely diversified".
According to Teva Meyer, a specialist on the civilian nuclear energy sector at the University of Upper Alsace, said EDF has been working on diversifying its suppliers for the past decade, turning to Central Asian nations such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as well as Australia.
Having a diverse supplier base has been a long-time recommendation of Euratom Supply Agency.
"The political and economic events in 2021 and early 2022 seriously impacted the global nuclear market and highlighted the relevance and urgency of ESA recommendations" concerning the diversification of suppliers, the head of the agency, Agnieszka Ewa Kazmierczak, wrote last year in the introduction to ESA's annual report.
"Overall, deliveries of natural uranium to EU utilities are well diversified, but several utilities buy their natural uranium from one supplier only," said the report.
EDF has also adopted a policy to keep on hand several years' worth of supplies and to develop the recycling of used nuclear fuel, according to the energy transition ministry.
"We have three years of enriched fuel in France so there is no supply risk," said Nicolas Goldberg, an energy expert at Colombus Consulting.
University of Upper Alsace's Meyer said that from the moment natural uranium is mined to it is burned in a reactor several years can elapse as it passes through the numerous stages of processing.
To be burned as fuel in a nuclear reactor, natural uranium needs to be purified, transformed and then enriched.
"France, like Europe, has strategic stocks of uranium at all stages of transformation equivalent to two years of consumption," said Meyer.
On August 9 the ICC and BCCI finally announced the revised, and hopefully final, schedule for the "ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023", which will begin on October 5. Normally such an announcement so close to an event might offer the sport's fans a reason for the delay and express regret for any inconvenience caused.
The question of expressing regret, however, doesn't arise in this case. What inconvenience can a change in schedule - no matter how late - cause to a fan if tickets haven't gone on sale yet?
Tickets for the 2023 ODI World Cup will be available to the public only from August 25, 41 days before the first match. To know how you can buy these tickets, please register with the ICC website from August 15. What we know so far is that if you are travelling to India to watch India play, or your team take on India, you will have to wait until August 31 to September 3 to try to get a ticket.
This timeline makes it extremely difficult for fans from countries that can't get an India visa without producing a confirmed itinerary. It won't be a cakewalk for those who want to travel from within the country either. Flights and hotel rooms are already exorbitantly priced around key match dates. And if you book travel and stay without a confirmed match ticket, you could end up at the mercy of touts and other agencies offering even more expensive packages. There is distinct possibility now that matches not involving India might be played in front of relatively poor crowds.
If the ten-team format didn't already make the tournament exclusivist, the possibility of poor representation of travelling fans might make you question the "world" in the "ICC Men's Cricket World Cup".
What about the "ICC" part then? The Men's 50-over World Cup is the ICC's flagship event, but the governing body has been virtually absent - at least in the public eye - while the BCCI delayed finalising the schedule and ticketing to an unprecedented degree. The ICC CEO, Geoff Allardice, practically expressed helplessness on BBC's Test Match Special during the World Test Championship final this June. He said he hadn't seen the schedule at the time but hoped to announce it "as soon as we possibly can".
Eventually, the schedule was announced with 100 days to go to the first match (and revised 43 days later). Forty-nine days later, we will reach a stage where the public can register on the ICC website to receive news and updates about tickets. Ten days after that tickets will go up for sale.
In the absence of an official explanation for the late change in schedule, you can believe one of two reasons. First that two of Pakistan's matches coincided with big festivals in Ahmedabad and Kolkata, and local police expressed their inability to provide adequate security for both the festival and the cricket. When these matches were moved, it had a ripple effect on other fixtures.
The second reason was offered by BCCI honorary secretary Jay Shah during a press conference in Delhi on July 27: "If security was an issue then why would the match go there [to Ahmedabad]?" he said. "[October] 14-15 is not the problem. Two or three boards have written in, asking to change based on the logistical challenges. There are some matches where there is only a two-day gap, so it will be difficult to play and then travel the next day [and then play again]."
If it is the latter reason, it is extremely accommodating of the BCCI to entertain such late requests from boards after they had signed off on the original schedule.
We don't know who is answerable for the delays because we don't know for sure whether this World Cup has a tournament director or an organising committee. Sources within the ICC and BCCI say Hemang Amin, the acting BCCI CEO for three years now, is the tournament director but there is no public record of such an appointment. Some others in the two bodies aren't even aware of such an appointment. The latest announcement identifies Amin as the "CEO of the BCCI".
There was no such ambiguity around the 2019 World Cup in England. In July 2016 - three years before the event - both ICC and ECB appointed Steve Elworthy, a veteran of three ICC tournaments already, the managing director of the World Cup. He went on to form a local organising committee, which is a combination of the host board and ICC officials. They are the people responsible and accountable for delivering a successful World Cup.
If it is the first reason - date clash with festivals - the BCCI might deserve some benefit of doubt. No organisation wants to sabotage its own event. While festival dates are known well in advance, Indian bureaucracy can sometimes spring surprises on the BCCI. Then again, this is precisely why World Cups are planned well in advance. Brushing off these delays as an "Indian thing" will be a grave disservice to past BCCI administrations. For the 2011 World Cup, the BCCI appointed a public-facing tournament director, the experienced Ratnakar Shetty, and an organising committee well in advance. The first batch of tickets went on sale as early as June 2010.
Perhaps the presence of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as co-hosts helped push matters along in 2011. Almost like how coalition governments work better. To stretch the analogy, the mandate for the current BCCI administration is absolute, and power is heavily centralised with honorary office bearers, a complete departure from the Lodha Committee recommendations to make the functioning of the board more professional and transparent.
Not to tempt fate, but the genuine cricket during the World Cup should go smoothly. In all likelihood the pitches, outfields and dressing rooms will be perfect, the needs of the broadcasters will be fulfilled, and the teams will be well looked after. The people working on the ground are too experienced to mess that up.
Neither the ICC nor the BCCI seemed anxious or apologetic about the schedule or ticketing delay because their bottom line will remain unaffected. The ICC will produce a fabulous broadcast and get its revenue. It doesn't seem to see this as an impediment to its ambition of globalising the game and taking cricket to the Olympics. The BCCI will sell out all India matches, and will carry on as it does. Politicians, film stars, and privileged people willing to pay will get in to watch matches. Only the regular cricket fan will suffer.
Only the regular cricket fan.
It's still hard to fathom that the 2023 Women's World Cup has come to an end, brilliant and unforgettable as it was. Our writers have looked at the next World Cup, to be held in 2027, and offered their bold thoughts there. Now it's time for them to reflect on a summer of scintillating soccer in Australia and New Zealand, recapping their favorite parts of this tournament.
Was Aitana Bonmatí the right choice for Golden Ball? Who would make their individual teams of the tournament? Which player grabs the crown as breakout star, and what was the best moment or goal amid a World Cup filled with them?
WAS THIS THE BEST WOMEN'S WORLD CUP EVER? OK, but how are we ranking "best" here? Most open? Most heartbreaking? Least predictable? Actually the biggest, by land area and/or number of competitors?
It was massive in every sense, and of those I've watched/covered (which certainly don't stretch back that far) it was indeed the best, even if by the end of it, the last teams standing were all from the top 10 in the world, which somewhat offset the feeling that it was such an open tournament.
WHO IS YOUR PICK FOR GOLDEN BALL?
Waru, Germany's knitted koala Aitana Bonmatí. She's just had another sensational season with Barcelona and brought that form to the Spanish national team, who could never have created history without her bringing everything together on the pitch.
With vision and intelligence in abundance, her name would have already been written on the Ballon d'Or had she missed this World Cup, but this summer was a perfect showcase as she got to show even more fans just how outrageously talented she is.
YOUR TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
(4-3-3) -- Rebecca Spencer (Jamaica); Ona Batlle (Spain), Clare Hunt (Australia), Amanda Ilestedt (Sweden), Alex Greenwood (England); Katrina Gorry (Australia), Aitana Bonmatí (Spain), Elin Rubensson (Sweden); Caitlin Foord (Australia), Kadidiatou Diani (France), Hinata Miyazawa (Japan)
It felt like a good tournament for strong midfields. It would have been easy enough to include Teresa Abelleira (Spain), Kyra Cooney-Cross (Australia) or Yui Hasegawa (Japan) in the mix, with teams with strength in midfield putting in some of the best performances this summer.
Goalkeeper is also a contentious position, with Nigeria's Chiamaka Nnadozie and Australia's Mackenzie Arnold starring for their respective nations and Sweden's Zećira Mušović making some stunning saves, setting a new World Cup record along the way. However, Spencer really rolled the years back during the Reggae Girlz' time in Australia and just, just edges it.
BIGGEST BREAKOUT STAR IN 2023? From my point of view as someone who watches a lot of football, there was no surprise about Salma Paralluelo or Linda Caicedo showing up and balling out, nor were Cooney-Cross' standout performances unexpected.
Miyazawa (just 23 years old) has a shout for the prize as she took her entire game up another level at this tournament, playing in a system that allowed her to thrive; Nnadozie (22) certainly made a name for herself at this tournament, too. But as she came from absolutely nowhere, with less than 500 minutes logged in her senior international career before the tournament started, and still went on to play every second of Australia's seven matches with maturity far beyond her experience, my pick has to be defensive rock Clare Hunt.
How Morocco secured a historic spot in the World Cup knockouts
Sophie Lawson reacts to Morocco's progression to the round of 16 on their Women's World Cup debut.
FAVORITE MOMENT/GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT There have been some stunning goals, from Esmee Brugts (Netherlands vs. Vietnam), Linda Caicedo (Colombia vs. Germany), Sam Kerr (Australia vs. England) and Sophia Braun (Germany vs. South Africa), to Marta Cox's free kick (Panama vs. France) and plenty more. But in terms of moments, it was being in the stadium in Perth when Morocco reached the knockouts, with the players all celebrating their win over Colombia before waiting for the other match to wrap up and once again being overcome with emotion.
I'll also nominate the cathartic release in Brisbane when Cortnee Vine brought an end to the longest shootout in World Cup history as Australia eliminated France, the whole nation celebrating from coast to coast.
WHAT DOES FIFA NEED TO DO BETTER IN 2027? Gag FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
WAS THIS THE BEST WOMEN'S WORLD CUP EVER? Definitely. The depth of talent in the women's game has been made clear in Australia and New Zealand, with the biggest example being the struggles endured by the USWNT. But for a goalpost, the Americans would have suffered a group stage elimination against Portugal, a nation they wouldn't have even considered a rival not so long ago. The rise of teams from Africa and South America also made it a great tournament.
WHO IS YOUR PICK FOR GOLDEN BALL? I'm going for Olga Carmona. Not only did she score two of the most important goals in Spanish football history with her winning strikes in the semifinal and final, but she also stood out as the best left-back in the tournament.
Spain have so many top players, but Carmona is up there with them all.
YOUR TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
(4-3-3) -- Mary Earps (England); Batlle, Ilestedt, Greenwood, Carmona; Bonmati, Jennifer Hermoso (Spain), Roord; Lineth Beerensteyn (Netherlands), Miyazawa, Paralluelo.
The pace and direct style of Beerensteyn and Paralluelo have added a new dimension to the women's game. Their explosive power has set the benchmark for forwards in the future.
BIGGEST BREAKOUT STAR IN 2023? It has to be Paralluelo: the Spain forward is just 19 but is destined to become a superstar.
FAVORITE MOMENT/GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT The atmosphere at Stadium Australia for the England-Australia semifinal. A crowd of over 75,000 was in attendance in Sydney, and it had all the tension and expectancy of an Ashes Test or rugby union clash between the two nations.
WHAT DOES FIFA NEED TO DO BETTER IN 2027? Replace Gianni Infantino as president. His patronising speech about helping the women's game sounded like clumsy PR spin and lacked any kind of sincerity. Infantino is a roadblock to progress in both the women's and men's games.
WAS THIS THE BEST WOMEN'S WORLD CUP EVER? Absolutely. We had a new winner, a great final and some superb storylines along the way. The highlights for me were the lower-ranked nations who sprang surprises and/or registered their first wins at a World Cup: New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa, Morocco, Colombia, Jamaica and Zambia. Off the pitch, they were some of the nations that bought the most colour as well.
WHO IS YOUR PICK FOR GOLDEN BALL? With a smug look on my face I can say that I tipped Bonmatí from the start and never wavered. I must admit that is in contrast to my tips for who would win the tournament, which constantly changed as fancied teams were eliminated.
YOUR TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
(4-3-3) -- Musovic; Batlle, Ilestedt, Greenwood, Carmona; Aitana, Rubensson, Hermoso; Hemp, Paralluelo, Miyazawa.
Most of these pick themselves, but I want to apologise for the absence of any Australians, who were great as a team. Hayley Raso came close, but I couldn't squeeze her in. Also a cowardly shoutout for leaving out Cata Coll (Spain), Earps and Millie Bright (England), Steph Catley and Katrina Gorry (Australia), Fridolina Rolfö (Sweden), Diani, Caicedo and Thembi Kgatlana (South Africa).
Ogden: Women's World Cup has been great showcase of football
Mark Ogden and Alexis Nunes give their thoughts on the Women's World Cup after Spain took the crown vs. England in the final.
BIGGEST BREAKOUT STAR IN 2023? For me, it was Kgatlana, who was terrific in South Africa's run to the last 16. I knew very little about her before. On a more traditional level, I have Paralluelo just pipping Caicedo.
FAVORITE MOMENT/GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT So many. Hannah Wilkinson's for New Zealand on the opening day of the tournament, Colombia's Caicedo downing Germany, Asisat Oshoala's clincher for Nigeria against Australia, South Africa's Kgatlana's stoppage-time winner to knock out Italy, all Lauren James' goals ... but for importance, drama and quality, I will go with Carmona's thunderous strike in the last minute of Spain's semifinal win over Sweden.
WHAT DOES FIFA NEED TO DO BETTER IN 2027? It's not just what FIFA needs to do; it's what confederations and federations around the world need to do. This tournament has demonstrated that pretty much every single one of the 32 nations present -- plus those that didn't qualify -- deserves more backing and more support.
More professional leagues and better conditions are needed around the world. If FIFA can encourage this, great. It should also look at getting more women into high-profile positions within the organisation.
WAS THIS THE BEST WOMEN'S WORLD CUP EVER? It was a brilliant World Cup in so many ways, but the narrowing of the gap between the so-called superpowers and the chasing pack has been a massive highlight. The early exits of Germany, Canada, Brazil, China and Italy showed the competitiveness of this World Cup, while it was also co-hosted brilliantly by both Australia and New Zealand.
How 'best player' Bonmatí led Spain to World Cup glory
Sam Marsden explains why he feels Spain's Aitana Bonmatí was the best player at the Women's World Cup.
WHO IS YOUR PICK FOR GOLDEN BALL? There are so many candidates, with Bonmati in the mix, while Hemp was outstanding in the latter stages for England, but for me, the standout player throughout the tournament was Greenwood. She was exceptional for England from start to finish and was their most consistent performer.
YOUR TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
(4-3-3) -- Musovic; Lucy Bronze (England), Greenwood, Ilestedt, Steph Catley (Australia); Abdelleira, Bonmati, Gorry; Paralluelo, Miyazawa, Hemp.
This is brutally, unfairly tough to pick, but I've gone with a flexible 4-3-3 system based on how the players finished the tournament rather than how they started it. There's a decent mix of youth and experience, as well as those who can create memorable moments in the blink of an eye.
BIGGEST BREAKOUT STAR IN 2023? There have been some remarkable performances across the age groups, but in terms of the youngsters you have to mention Paralluelo and James (red card apart). However, the breakout star for me was Colombia's Caicedo. She was exceptional, one of the best players in the tournament, and aged just 18 years old, her potential is frightening.
FAVORITE MOMENT/GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT The Brazil goal against Panama was exceptional, while Kerr's long-range strike against England was incredible -- the noise greeting it from within Stadium Australia matched the brilliance and audacity of the finish. But there was something truly incredible about James' goal for England in their second match against Denmark.
It was only a moment in the grand tapestry of the tournament, but she was long tipped to be a breakout star here and she needed just six minutes in her first World Cup start to score a wonder goal.
WHAT DOES FIFA NEED TO DO BETTER IN 2027? Equal pay across both the men's and women's World Cups.
WAS THIS THE BEST WOMEN'S WORLD CUP EVER? Without question. You have to give props, of course, to the 1999 Women's World Cup, which really marked a watershed moment for the tournament itself. Equally, the 2019 one will hold a special place in my heart -- it was a blast to cover and follow the U.S. team. But this tournament was so much more competitive, and the on-field product was so much better than any Women's World Cup that preceded it.
FIFA also really stepped up its game in terms of providing a polished, memorable experience for fans, too.
WHO IS YOUR PICK FOR GOLDEN BALL? What's remarkable about this tournament is that unlike past Women's World Cups, there wasn't one star who took the whole tournament over. That's probably another data point in the conversation about the growth and competitiveness of the women's game now. That said, I agree with the choice of Bonmatí. She was sensational for Spain, helping keep the ball, move it around and create chances, even if she wasn't at the top of the scoring list.
'Bizarre' incident involving Spanish FA president 'tarnishes' Women's World Cup win
Alex Kirkland reacts to the incident involving Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales as he kissed midfielder Jennifer Hermoso during postmatch celebrations after Spain's 1-0 win over England in the Women's World Cup final.
YOUR TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
(4-3-3) -- Earps; Greenwood, Naomi Girma (USA), Hunt, Nathalie Björn (Sweden); Hasegawa, Bonmati, Georgia Stanway (England); Miyazawa, Diani, Alba Redondo (Spain)
I went with a formation that teams actually play (4-3-3) and I tried to put players in their genuine positions. I could've probably filled this squad with Spanish players and it would've been fair, but I married the eye test with some stats to put together this best 11. Yes, there is a token American in Girma, because I can't overstate what a shining light she was during a rather dismal tournament for the team I covered, the United States.
BIGGEST BREAKOUT STAR IN 2023? I loved watching Caicedo with Colombia as they reached the quarterfinals -- a big achievement for a team that simply does not get enough support from its federation. It's hard to believe she's only 18. I, of course, had heard a lot of buzz about her before the tournament and from Real Madrid, a club she joined in February. But to see her on the world stage dancing on the ball and scoring golazos was a joy to watch. She has a huge career ahead of her.
FAVORITE MOMENT/GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT I have to pick a moment I saw in person, and so I have to pick the U.S. losing the penalty shootout to Sweden by a millimeter. It sure didn't feel like my favorite moment at the time: I had a pit in my stomach as I thought to myself "What am I going to cover now? I'm booked through the final!" But I will never forget it, and I'm sure USWNT fans won't either -- what a way to go out.
In a World Cup that otherwise wasn't memorable at all for the USWNT, this is the moment that stands out.
WHAT DOES FIFA NEED TO DO BETTER IN 2027? Honestly, credit where it's due: I was impressed with the fan zones and the merch offerings during this tournament. Both 2019 and 2015 were pathetic in regard to both, so it was awesome to see FIFA invest in offering lots of cool merch people actually wanted to buy and in creating gathering spots for fans that built excitement for the tournament. I'm sure it also helped FIFA's bottom line, too. Which brings me to what FIFA ought to do: make sure women's teams are supported before the World Cup even happens.
I love that FIFA provided federations with almost $1 million in funds to prepare for the tournament, but it needs to make sure the money is used properly, too. Jamaica players had to crowdfund to raise money for travel for a training camp. Some teams didn't even play friendlies to prepare for the World Cup. FIFA should mandate and incentivize federations to care about their teams outside of just the World Cup.
WAS THIS THE BEST WOMEN'S WORLD CUP EVER? Absolutely. The level of play, highlighted by all-conquering Spain, was exceptional. The number of contending teams was higher than ever. The drama was off the charts, and the attendance was almost two million, a new record. The overall depth was impressive as well, validating FIFA's decision to expand the tournament to 32 teams.
One can only hope that this galvanizes federations to invest more in the women's game. Alas, there is no ensure of that.
Spain celebrate after arriving home as Women's World Cup champs
The Spanish women's national team celebrate in front of fans following their win at the Women's World Cup.
WHO IS YOUR PICK FOR GOLDEN BALL? Hard to argue with the choice of Bonmati. She was at the heart of Spain's possession game, scored three goals,and did her bit on the defensive end as well. Is a FIFA Women's Player of the Year award in her future? It should be.
YOUR TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
(4-3-3): Earps; Batlle, Ilestedt, Girma, Carmona; Bonmati, Hasegawa, Raso; Miyazawa, Diani, Caicedo
Thinking more about the players left out than those that are in. The Netherlands' Jill Roord was excellent, as was the Australia trio of Ellie Carpenter, Foord and Catley. But all hail champions Spain, who have three players in my Best XI.
BIGGEST BREAKOUT STAR IN 2023? There's an impulse to go with Bonmati, but she's been an ever-present force for a few years now with Barcelona at club level, excelling in the UEFA Women's Champions League. Looking further afield, I'd go with her club and international teammate Paralluelo. She scored some absolutely crucial goals for Spain in the quarterfinals and semifinals, and at age 19, she's only going to get better.
FAVORITE MOMENT/GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT That would have to be Morocco's players, after defeating Colombia in its last group stage game, huddling together to get word of Germany's result against South Korea. When word arrived that the match ended in a 1-1 draw, putting Morocco through to the knockout rounds, the joy induced goosebumps.
Only one team can win the tournament, but more than one can enjoy an iconic moment, and that was the case here.
WHAT DOES FIFA NEED TO DO BETTER IN 2027? Get past the idea that it is up to women to break down barriers for greater access to and investment in the women's game. Women have been pounding on the door for decades, but it is men that still control the levers of power, the purse strings especially.
FIFA broke even on this tournament with revenues of over $500m. The time is now to ramp up investment even more and take advantage of the momentum created, and that is up to the game's male gatekeepers.
WAS THIS THE BEST WOMEN'S WORLD CUP EVER? This absolutely was the best World Cup ever. For all the fears about the talent pool not being there to sustain a 32-team tournament, the past month has produced more than enough upsets, narratives, thrills, spills and, most importantly, quality football to justify the expansion. Add to this the record crowds and interest from host nations that bought in 100% and a gauntlet has been thrown down.
WHO IS YOUR PICK FOR GOLDEN BALL? The panel got it right in naming Aitana Bonmatí as player of the tournament. What the Barcelona star does on a pitch both with and without the ball is incredible and her role in driving Spain to a first-ever title seemingly in spite of her coach and Federation was remarkable.
YOUR TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
(4-3-3) -- Earps; Batlle, Ilestedt, Greenwood, Catley; Gorry, Hermoso, Bonmatí; Miyazawa, Foord, Caicedo.
I'm cheating here by not having a proper striker; Foord can play centrally for this purpose because I wanted to get Caicedo in there. Gorry might not make many teams of the tournament because she doesn't score high on the name recognition index, but I refuse to have mine without her. She's a gargantuan footballer.
How Nigeria have taken the World Cup by storm
Julien Laurens, Colin Udoh and Sophie Lawson detail how Nigeria have reached the World Cup knockout stages.
BIGGEST BREAKOUT STAR IN 2023? Now a world champion at U17, U20 and senior level, Spanish sensation Paralluelo will pretty much end up being as good as she wants to be because she has the talent to be anything. And after her game breaking appearance in 2023, the 19-year-old -- who also has the marketing machine of Barcelona behind her -- is poised to become one of the biggest stars in football in the years ahead.
Miyazawa, meanwhile, won the tournament's Golden Boot at 23 years old and still attached to WE League side Mynavi Sendai. A move to Europe must be on the cards.
FAVORITE MOMENT/GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT Lorne Donaldson's cartwheel/forward role of joy after Jamaica drew with Brazil to advance to the knockouts encapsulated the joy that followed the Reggae Girlz this tournament. Infectious spirit and achievements on the pitch made more impressive by the challenges off it. As for goal? Cox's howitzer free kick against France.
WHAT DOES FIFA NEED TO DO BETTER IN 2027? FIFA needs to raise the bar on everything. This tournament was amazing: now go bigger! Bring it closer to the resources pumped into the men's World Cup than ever before. Elsewhere, ease off on the copyright strikes; let fans, within reason, share their passion and excitement and do your marketing for you by creating viral videos and GIF-worthy moments.
WAS THIS THE BEST WOMEN'S WORLD CUP EVER? To be an Australian football fan is to always be too far away. So to have the whole world here, in a place where football is forgotten because of distance and unfavourable timezones, means more than many can understand. So yes, it was the best ever.
WHO IS YOUR PICK FOR GOLDEN BALL? Bonmati was a deserved winner. From game one she showed class and was instrumental in Spain's historic first ever Women's World Cup win.
YOUR TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
(4-3-3) -- Arnold; Batlle, Ilestedt, Hunt, Carmona; Abelleira, Cooney-Cross, Bonmati; Foord, Hemp, Miyazawa.
Obviously there is a huge Spanish influence here, with Bonmati the first name on the hypothetical team sheet. I've chosen to champion some breakout stars with Arnold in goal, Hunt in defence. Cooney-Cross in the midfield, and Miyazawa up top all making their World Cup debuts at this tournament.
BIGGEST BREAKOUT STAR IN 2023? Plenty of people knew of Paralluelo's game either from her most accurate season with Barcelona or her youth World Cup victories with Spain but now the whole world knows about her. While her goals in the quarterfinal and semifinal showed off her brilliance, her performance in the World Cup final itself solidified her status as the young player of the tournament.
FAVORITE MOMENT/GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT The Australia-France shootout as a whole. I know many people hate shootouts, with Kerr chief among them, but there is no greater theatre than a penalty shootout and this one delivered from the intensity of emotions to the variety of narratives. Long live the penalty shootout!
WHAT DOES FIFA NEED TO DO BETTER IN 2027? Have someone in charge who does not need to be convinced of the value of women's football and its worth as an investment, but rather someone who is ready to continue pushing the game to the heights everyone inside it knows it can reach.
WAS THIS THE BEST WOMEN'S WORLD CUP EVER? Yes it was. The quality was the highest we have ever seen, the drama was there, the different styles of football too, the atmosphere was amazing, some players made a name for themselves, plenty of wonderful stories were told and the best team won in the end.
'Gutted' England players react to World Cup final defeat
Beth England, Georgia Stanway, Mary Earps and Millie Bright reflect upon England's loss to Spain in the Women's World Cup final.
WHO IS YOUR PICK FOR GOLDEN BALL? Bonmatí, and there's no debate. She is just a wonderful player. She dominated games almost on her own. She is so gifted technically while seeing the game before anyone else on the pitch. England are still trying to find a way to limit her impact on the final! She is only 26, so she will keep getting better too, and I expect her to win the Ballon d'Or as well.
YOUR TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
(4-3-3) -- Musovic; Batlle, Irene Paredes (Spain), Ilestedt, Carmona; Bonmati, Abelleira, Miyazawa; Paralluelo, Hermoso, Diani.
Obviously seven players from Spain are in my team of the tournament. Apart from the Japan defeat in the group stages, these players were outstanding all tournament. Musovic's performance against the USA was one of the best individual displays of the World Cup. Miyazawa finished top scorer and Diani had the most goal involvement.
BIGGEST BREAKOUT STAR IN 2023? Paralluelo. We knew what an incredible talent she was before the start of the tournament, but for her to be so good through this World Cup showed that there is no ceiling for her. As a sub or a starter, she was strong, powerful, skillful and smart. And it's just the beginning.
FAVORITE MOMENT/GOAL OF THE TOURNAMENT I saw Marta play live, I saw Caicedo's wonder goal for Colombia against Germany and I saw Cox's incredible free kick for Panama against France too, but witnessing the Australia vs. France penalty shootout tops it all. It was just exceptional. The atmosphere in Brisbane was deafening and the drama of the penalties was unmatched. For football/soccer in Australia, it was huge, too.
As sad as I was for my country, it was unbelievable to be there.
WHAT DOES FIFA NEED TO DO BETTER IN 2027? FIFA needs to care more. It can't make a mess again of the sale of the TV rights. FIFA's president needs to actually be on site through the whole tournament and not just a few days here and there (and his UEFA counterpart should be there at least for the final if it involves one or two of his confederation's members)! FIFA needs to push more digital content forward so more of the world can access the World Cup on social media.