The International Football disaster – sport’s soft underbelly
The world of sport, already reeling under the seemingly incessant accusations of athletes and officials who have been and continue to be involved in the use of performance enhancing substances has been dealt another heavy blow – charges of corruption at the highest level of international football.
Interesting the slew of revelations have come in just one week prior to the FIFA elections in which Blatter was being challenged by Bin Hammam.
The big bang
The big bang started occurring when it was announced that there was a whistle-blower inside the world governing body for football, FIFA and that evidence was in his possession in relation to charges of corruption amongst two executive members of the organisation.
It was not long before it was made known that long serving General Secretary of the regional body, CONCACAF, Chuck Blazer, was the whistle-blower on the inside and that he was armed with affidavits in support of his claim. Blazer’s claim was that he had evidence that at a meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) headed by Jack Warner, FIFA presidential candidate, Bin Hammam of Qatar and Warner were involved in offering affiliates $40,000 USD to use as they deem fit, in return for their votes at the FIFA elections scheduled for 1 June 2011, for the Qatari official.
Immediately after the information made the international news we learnt of FIFA’s decision to have Warner and Bin Hammam hauled before the Ethics Committee of the organisation on Sunday 29 May.
In short order thereafter, Bin Hammam revealed that FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, was in the know in respect of the monies being offered. This in turn led to the Ethics Committee requesting that Blatter himself also come before it.
Paul Kelso, Chief Sports Reporter of Telegraph Sport revealed the following from a dossier:
The report alleges up to 25 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) officials were each offered envelopes containing $40,000 (£24,000) in cash, split into four $10,000 “stacks” of $100 bills, to persuade them to vote for Bin Hammam in this week’s Fifa presidential election.
The alleged offers were made in one-to-one meetings following a special summit of the CFU, arranged by Warner to allow Bin Hammam to present his election manifesto in Trinidad earlier this month.
Seven whistle-blowers have told investigators the cash was presented as a “gift”, and that they were told “not to tell anyone about the cash, not to discuss the cash with the others and not to show anyone the money”.
They claim they were initially told the money was a gift from the CFU, but the following day Warner told them the money was in fact from Bin Hammam, and that he had advised the Qatari to make “gifts” in cash.
Information seems to suggest that the President of the Bahamas Football Association, Anton Sealey, may well have set the ball rolling when he rejected the offer of the money. It also appears that the leadership of the Football Associations of Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos also rejected the money and supported the claims by Sealey of the Bahamas.
As expected there were immediate denials of having done anything wrong by both Warner and Bin Hammam. In a similar vein Blatter wanted it known that he had nothing to do with the matter.
In preparing to leave Trinidad to face the FIFA Ethics Committee Warner threatened that there would be a tsunami within the sport’s governing body. Warner is quoted as saying, You will see a football tsunami that will hit FIFA and the world that will shock you. I have been here for 29 consecutive years and if the worst happens, the worst happens.
“If that is what it comes to, so be it, you must never get too attached to anything. They can do what they want, it doesn’t bother me.
To some this may well have been an indication that he was prepared to make some startling revelations that could possibly rock the organisation’s very foundations.
According to Kelso, Warner and Bin Hammam have both denied any wrongdoing, with the Qatari claiming the allegations are a “tawdry manoeuvre” intended to cripple his chances in Wednesday’s presidential election.
Bin Hammam’s defence is understood to claim that he played no part in offering bribes, and that his contribution was limited to the travel, accommodation expenses and “administrative costs” of the meeting.
The Qatari has admitted paying these expenses despite a warning from Blazer that to do so “raised ethical issues”.
To add to the intrigue Bin Hammam announced his withdrawal from the presidential race in FIFA, a move that left many questions dangling in the air. While he claimed that he did not want the sport of football to suffer or the name of FIFA to be sullied the damage was already done and his withdrawal is a moot point especially since the Ethics Committee cleared Blatter while Bin Hammam and Warner received provisional suspensions leaving them out of the world of football until further notice.
Suddenly we have been getting information that we did not have before. This has prompted the Jamaica Observer newspaper on Tuesday 31 May to headline its article on the FIFA debacle, Jack Warner sings as FIFA corruption scandal widens. In the article Warner is quoted as saying that ..at the Miami CONCACAF Congress on May 3, Mr Blatter made a gift of US$1 million to CONCACAF to spend as it deems fit.
According to Warner, This annoyed (UEFA) president Michel Platini who was present and he approached (FIFA) secretary general, Jerome Valcke, complaining that Mr Blatter had no permission from the Finance Committee to make this gift to which Jerome replied that he will find the money for Mr Blatter.
This seems to be just the beginning and one wonders how much more would be revealed in the next few days and months.
Importantly, we must consider how long has this been the modus operandi of FIFA. Could it be possible that in the revelations we may eventually garner information about the voting patters when Cameroon’s Issa Hayatou ran against Blatter and somehow he who led the African Football body could not muster the solid block of his own African affiliates?
Interestingly, when the English football authorities challenged the outcome of the vote for the World Cup of 2022, which was awarded to Qatar, many within FIFA claimed that they were mere sour grapes. Now that revelations are such that FIFA appears to be coming apart at the seams we may well get greater insight into precisely how the votes were influenced.
SVG and the rest of the CONCACAF
There is an uneasy calm here in St Vincent and the Grenadines as sorting enthusiasts desire to know whether the local Federation accepted the $40,000 knowing the intent. Had St Vincent and the Grenadines been among the whistle-blowers we would have heard from the authorities here a long time ago. The fact that there is now a deafening silence amongst the local football leadership raises innumerable questions and poses a serious challenge to their continued retention of their role in the organization if they were found to have been involve din the acceptance of bribes when FIFA concludes its investigation.
But St Vincent and the Grenadines would not be the only Federation whose leadership would be on the line. In every country where the monies were received the same challenges would be posed to the leadership of their respective football authorities if the FIFA hammer falls on Warner and Bin Hammam.
Rather interestingly the Trinidad Express on Tuesday 31 May carried a story originally printed at http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news.CONCACAF_Blazer_must explain-122848193.html.
The story stated that Lisle Austin of Barbados, CONCACAF’s senior vice president and current acting president since the provisional suspension of Warner, sent Blazer a letter yesterday asking the American from proof he was acting at the request of the federation’s executive committee when he gave FIFA a file outlining bribery allagations against Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam. Only the executive committee could authorize such an action.
One wonders whether Lisle Austin is aware of the implications of his statement.
What is he implying?
It is preposterous for us to consider that by any stretch of the imagination Austin could be suggesting that before Blazer, the Secretary General of CONCACAF could inform the sports governing body of bribery he should have first gotten permission from CONCACAF to do so.
Perhaps Austin is unaware of the implications of the charges laid against Warner and Bin Hammam on this occasion.
In the recent past some of the sport’s executive members have been banned because of different breaches of the organisation’s ethics.
There is little doubt that since the significant growth in FIFA’s coffers as a result of television rights and the popularity of the organisation’s events it has become the major sporting powerhouse alongside the International Olympic Committee. The delivery of US$1 million over the four-year period to its national affiliates has already led to several allegations in different countries around the world about the way the monies have been spent. The Caribbean is no exception in this regard.
One wonders whether over the years a code of silence and acquiescence has not become part of the culture of football in the Caribbean and the rest of the world such that in many respects the federations have become more like members of a secret lodge than an international sporting organization.