The recent scandal in international football that has led to the ban placed on Qatar’s Bin Hamman and the resignation of Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, has led to some very startling revelations that assures us of the correctness of our stance that international sport has been more vicious than national politics.
Over the years there have been several occasions on which different individuals have pointed to serious discrepancies in what international and regional sports organisations say and what they actually do. For the most part the international bodies governing sport have become near-political monoliths leaving their affiliates with little opportunity to really impact the decision-making process.
As so often happens many of the international sports federations develop a sort of elite clique amongst its executive who keep the decision-making mostly to themselves.
In several previous articles time has been taken in this Column to point to different instances where the president of international sports organisations seem to increasingly perceive themselves as little kings in their own right. To see them move around the world one would believe that they are in fact heads of state rather than mere leaders of what is supposed to be democratic sporting organisations.
In the past too when critics have dared to unearth discrepancies the leadership as well as those who seem satisfied with ‘feeding at the trough’ have tended to reject almost out of hand the accusations.
Occasionally however the truth comes to light. One such case was the explosion of the ‘Salt Lake City Scandal’, which pushed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the back foot. IOC President at the time, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who had earlier withstood demands for him to leave following revelation of him in a photo in General Franco’s brutal army, was forced to capitulate to international criticism and initiate an inquiry led by some renowned international personalities, including former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. The IOC was then forced to establish a permanent Ethics Commission to protect itself seemingly from itself.
The recent occurrences at FIFA have nonetheless taken revelations about the conduct of individuals and organisations involved in international sport to another level.
FIFA Elections 2011
Perhaps in hindsight the startling revelations that point accusing fingers at FIFA itself began with the fact that the organisation was scheduled to select the hosts of the FIFA World Cups of 2018 and 2022 as well as host elections on 1 June 2011.
In the first instance the world of sport went into a state of shock upon the revelation that the FIFA World Cups 2018 and 202 were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively, a country subjected to extremely fierce hot weather in the summer months.
The English Football Association and indeed all of England, defeated in their own quest to win the rights to host the 2018 World Cup, immediately began raising questions about the way in which the decision to award the event to Russia and Qatar may have emerged. They may have had good reason since as far back as October 2010 a report carried by the Sunday Times of England stated that two members of Fifa’s executive committee, Reynald Temarii of Tahiti and Amos Adamu of Nigeria, offered to sell their votes in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting contest to undercover reporters. FIFA’s Ethics Committee provisionally suspended the two members pending further investigations. More than this, four former FIFA executive committee members were provisionally suspended.
One month later, FIFA took the decision to ban Temarii for one year and also fined him 5,000 Swiss francs (£3,552) for breaching the organisation’s code of ethics while Adamu was banned for three years and fined 10,000 Swiss francs for breaching five articles of the same code, including one on bribery. FIFA also took the decision to ban the four former executive members who had earlier been provisionally suspended.
When Blatter was running for the post of President of FIFA after having served several terms as Secretary General of the organisation under Brazilian, Joao Havelange, Isaac Hayatou of the Cameroun challenged him. At the time one would have expected an alliance between the former colonised nations in FIFA in support of one of their own, Hayatou. However it appeared that Blatter’s supporters were able to win over much of these votes and can be credited with having secured a split of the African vote.
Hayatou must have been embarrassed by the disastrous loss he experienced at the hands of Blatter and his supporters.
Since then much may have changed at FIFA enough for some to give consideration to a changing of the guard in 2011. That can be one of the conclusions drawn from the revelations over the past several months.
The FIFA Ethics Committee found it necessary to investigate what transpired at the meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) in Trinidad and Tobago on 10 May 2011. Amazingly, information came to hand that several of the participants were treated to one-on-one meetings from which they emerged with envelopes containing as much as $40,000USD. In short order thereafter Asia’s president, Bin Hamman and CONCACAF and CFU president, Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, were summoned before the Ethics Committee of FIFA. The rest is now history.
FIFA banned Bin Hamman for life and Warner resigned. There was a feeling however that the expose of FIFA and of Football more generally was far from over.
When he was called before the FIFA Ethics Committee Warner seemed to suggest something to the effect that the battle lines had been drawn. He promised a tsunami in the world of football that would reverberate across the globe.
This was not the first time that Warner was going before the FIFA Ethics Committee but he had never sounded like this before. To the casual observer this spelled of something more in the mortar than the pestle.
Around the Caribbean where Warner had loomed larger than life in the sport of football many suggested that this was just another opportunity for him to show his true worth in the FIFA ‘club’ and hence there was nothing to worry about. Unfortunately this is not the case. The conclusion of the Ethics Committee were damning, to say the least and one got the impression that Warner was lucky not to have received the same treatment as Bin Hamman. It seemed that despite what he said he was offered the opportunity to resign.
To date we have heard nothing of the promised football tsunami. Indeed, from Warner we have hardly received a ripple in the football fraternity. At best when he emerged from the Ethics Committee we ought to have know that he was in trouble for it was the first time he was known to have referred to this organisation as a ‘kangaroo court’.
On 8 September 2011 one media source observed, FIFA has terminated a multi-million pound 2014 World Cup TV deal after discovering the rights had been sub-licensed to a company owned by controversial former vice-president Jack Warner.
The agreement with the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) has been brought to an end after FIFA told the organisation it had not approved the sub-licensing deal with Warner’s company, JD International (JDI).
This came as a shock to the sports enthusiasts of the Caribbean. Many may not have known that such an agreement existed at all.
Information suggests, FIFA said in a statement to the British Press Association: “The CFU was a media rights licensee for FIFA events in selected territories in the Caribbean.
The article also noted, The CFU, headed by Warner, sub-licensed the rights to his company JDI. In 2007, JDI sold on those rights to SportsMax.
FIFA has said it had not approved the sub-licensing and had only become aware of it recently, but there was no secrecy about Warner’s involvement.
Indeed he held a photo opportunity with SportsMax executives to announce the deal, and according to SportsMax’s own website, the deal was worth between US$18-20 million.
The website said Warner “negotiated the deal on behalf of JDI” and “in his capacity as president of the CFU”.
In quick response however Warner has stated that he thought that his resignation had essentially brought the matter to a close but that is obviously not the case.
Of critical importance to ask here however are the following:
- To what extent affiliates of both the CFU and CONCACAF were aware of the foregoing deal and approved it
- Was it the first such deal that Warner had signed in this regard?
- Did he sign over the rights before and if so to whom and at what cost? Was this known to FIFA?
In his response to what has been happening with himself and FIFA recently Warner claimed, To maintain their whiteness, their whistleblower must never be tainted and so their [FIFA’s] bias, their prejudice and their partiality continue unabated favouring a certain kind of people and damning another.
The comment is most surprising for someone who has spent over 30 years working and hobnobbing with these very people and who often acted on their behalf during that time.
It is bothersome that we should only now be learning this from Warner. When did he discover this?
How much more does he have to tell us about FIFA and its operations?
Has Warner at any time in the past made it known to the affiliates of CFU and CONCACAF as well as the football-loving peoples of the region that FIFA was infected with bias, prejudice and partiality?
Perhaps the comments now being made by Warner would have had greater impact by way of credibility if he had been making these views known all along. Perhaps many would wish to know what role he played in the election of Sepp Blatter in the election contest with Hayatou several years ago.
What has been the relationship between Warner and Chuck Blazer whom he installed as the CONCACAF Secretary General immediately following his election to the presidency of the organisation in Guatemala City in 1990?
It is unfortunate but is now seems that Warner is crying foul after having been on the inside and kept quiet for many years but now that he is on the outside he appears hopeful that things would be kept quiet.
One wonders what else is there to be revealed over the next several months in respect of the operations of CFU and CONCACAF or of Warner himself. Would Warner eventually dare to unleash the promised football tsunami and what impact would this have on the wide and wonderful world of football?
The future weeks really do seem rather interesting.
FIFA’s Fair Play anthem may well emerge meaningless unless it is also applied to the organisation itself and not only to those engaged on the field of play.
Warner said: “When I resigned from the FIFA of my own volition, it was because I was prepared to pay the ultimate price and become the sacrificial lamb for alleged wrongdoings prior to the FIFA elections.
“I was led to believe that that would have been the end of the matter as far as I was concerned. Never did I believe that the FIFA would have engaged in such an acrimonious battle with the Caribbean Football Union, an organisation, which for 33 years has served the FIFA well and had demonstrated its loyalty not only to the FIFA but its president [Sepp Blatter].
“Such ignoble pursuit has nothing to do with the cleansing of corruption within the FIFA but rather to offer the perception of an aura of cleansing within the FIFA.
“In their pursuit they have devastated the lives of many persons, destroyed many golden friendships which were forged over the years and sadly affected generations of footballers to come within the region of the Caribbean.
“All this has been perpetuated by the men of the FIFA’s gentry who were once viewed as friends of the CFU. This is done in the name of seeking to cleanse the FIFA of all corruption.”
Warner also criticised FIFA for not investigating Chuck Blazer, the American FIFA member who blew the whistle on the bribery.
Blazer, who worked under Warner as general secretary of CONCACAF for more than a decade, has confirmed he receives a percentage of the federation’s sponsorship deals as part of his salary package.
Warner added: “To maintain their whiteness, their whistleblower must never be tainted and so their [FIFA’s] bias, their prejudice and their partiality continue unabated favouring a certain kind of people and damning another.”