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Monday, October 10, 2011


The fallout from this summer's FIFA congress continues unabated, it appears, as CONCACAF vice-president Chuck Blazer announced last Thursday that he will relinquish his position on 31/12/11. In an interview, conducted via telephone, with a journalist from the Associated Press, Blazer said that he felt that CONCACAF had been enduring what he called a "stagnation period" and that he wanted to do "something entrepreneurial." 

Blazer was the so-called whistle-blower who threw a spanner in the FIFA works just before the congress in May by alleging that CONCACAF president Jack Walker and AFC president and former candidate for the position of FIFA president Mohamed Bin Hammam had, along with two CONCACAF employees, given delegates representing each of the Caribbean Football Union countries US$40,000 each at the CFU congress at the beginning of May.

As a result of Blazer's allegations, Bin Hammam dropped out of the FIFA presidential race, and both Walker and Bin Hammam were to face FIFA's all-new ethics committee. Although the Qatari Bin Hammam was banned from football for life by the committee (he is currently appealing the decision), Walker jumped ship and resigned as CONCACAF president just before he was due to appear in front of the body.

The FIFA ethics committee could not deliver a verdict on the Trinidadian, but it later said that Walker would most probably have been found guilty of "assisting corruption." Judging by what one reads in the media and on the internet, it seems that the vast majority of football fans and observers would not only agree with FIFA's assessment of Walker, but would say that it was perhaps a little understated..

Blazer was, no doubt, getting ready to size up a new chair for himself in place of that belonging to "Teflon Jack" at CONCACAF HQ in New York, but the acting federation president, Lisle Austin, like Walker, a gentleman of Trinidadian stock, attempted not only to stop Blazer from taking over the top spot in CONCACAF, but to remove him altogether from the organisation.

Taking it literally and given Chuck's girth, that would have been no easy task, but Austin's attempt to prevent change was thwarted by CONCACAF as they slapped Austin down, saying that he lacked the authority to carry out such an action. FIFA then stepped in and actually suspended Austin, who responded by going to the High Court  in the Bahamas in order to overturn FIFA's decision. Austin has been reported as describing FIFA as "a corrupt cabal of arrogance and cronyism."

Even though Austin, who has now been suspended for a year by FIFA for going to a civil court of law to appeal against his original suspension (FIFA frowns on such things, as anyone with an interest in football and its politics will know), is a close associate of Honest Jack's - that in itself is not a reason for football fans without sin to start throwing stones at the man, squad - many football fans will, without doubt, find themselves concurring with the above statement..

Back to big Chuck, meanwhile, and he also intimated during the interview that he intended to keep his seat on FIFA's executive committee until the next round of elections in 2013. CONCACAF will convene a meeting in due course to discuss electing Blazer's successor in that particular organ. Blazer, who is 66, said it was too early to make a decision as to whether he would seek re-election for his position in FIFA.

It was under his instigation that CONCACAF, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of its foundation last month, moved its headquarters from Guatemala City to New York City  in the late 1990s (there was also small talk around at the time that the organisation would change its name to The Confederation, but that quickly dissapated), and that the CONCACAF Champions League - which replaced the CONCACAF Champions' Cup in 2009 - and Gold Cup as we now know them were organised.

It is fairly true that CONCACAF has become somewhat "stagnant" recently, but can that, together with Chuck's "entrepreneurial" ambitions, be why he has decided to hand in his notice? Well, now that Walker is long gone and Austin suspended, media attention soon shifted to Blazer, who is, it has been alleged recently in media organs as diverse and august as The Independent, Transparency In Sport (the indefatigible Andrew Jennings again) and World Soccer, living "high on the hog" in Trump Towers in New York, and has been able to afford to keep doing so thanks not only to his monthly wage from CONCACAF, but also to his obtaining 10 per cent of all CONCACAF-approved sponsorship and television money.

Said money found its way into his bank account through different  (offshore?) bank accounts in different countries all over the Americas, and, according to the soon-to-be ex-vice-president of CONCACAF, that this bonus, if you will, is actually included in his contract with the confederation. Blazer claims that everything has been done legally and is above-board. To be fair to Blazer, if bankers and call-centre workers are able to receive a bonus on top of their normal pay, then one would suppose that he is entitled to receive the same.

However, there may still be muddy waters ahead for our Chuck, as other allegations have been made across the media that he received various payments from none other than Jack Walker, which had been made using the CFU bank account. Blazer claims that Walker was merely paying back a loan. If this is true, then it may well be that these "repayments" were, in fact, unlawful. British satellite television channel Sky News (Rupert Murdoch's crew, but still) relayed a statement made by Walker to reporter Richard Conway refuting the big man's loans/repayments claims (this, too, was published on the Transparency In Sport website):

"Having read with amazement Chuck Blazer’s claim that monies I paid him were in repayment of a personal loan, I have decided after much deliberation to set the record straight..The payment I made to Blazer of
$250,000 was the last of three payments which together totalled $750,000..

"These were absolutely not in repayment for any loan....These monies were paid from the Carribean Football Union’s account with funds received from FIFA. I do not know why Blazer is pretending otherwise..

"I began to become concerned with Blazer several years ago when I became aware of the large sums he was earning from commissions. He refused to respond fully to my questions in regard to them. As a result, since 2004 I have refused to sign any contract with his company Sportvertising, demanding that first he make a complete declaration of his earnings. Up to this point in time, neither he nor his company has
any valid contract with CONCACAF.

"His attitude significantly deteriorated when, after I had paid him the total of $750,000, I told him that I would not pay an additional $250,000 that he was requesting be forwarded to his private account - unless he
provided me with a complete accounting of his CONCACAF earnings.

"Instead of providing this accounting, Blazer treacherously planned and coordinated an attack on myself and the CFU. Only when there is a full accounting at Concacaf will the whole truth come to light. For the time being, I will say no more on this matter."

Pot calling the kettle black? Is this the tsunami Walker was talking about back in May? In any case, it is all rather murky, and if the above is true and Walker was so incensed by this former close friend's behaviour, why didn't he see to it that Blazer was dismissed from his post there and then? There is a fine line between love and hate, it's true, but one would wager that there is a lot to more to the goings-on between Walker and Blazer (and perhaps a cast of dozens in CONCACAF and further afield) than what has been cast out into the public domain, and there will be a lot more to come. When that happens, FIFA president Sepp Blatter might wish to have his tin-hat at the ready; any further allegations may well cause a lot of collateral damage all across the football world, or what's left of it.

Blazer was reported as defending his actions thus: "All of my transactions have been legally and properly done, in compliance with the various laws of the applicable jurisdictions based on the nature of the transaction." (Doing something entrepreneurial indeed, is our Chuck, all this money-lending stuff.) The FBI, of all people, have been investigating Walker's allegations since mid-August, and if found to be in the wrong, Blazer may well find that he might be clearing out his desk at CONCACAF headquarters a little sooner than he expected.. Who will then follow, one asks oneself?

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