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Warner scandal tarnishing image of Caribbean



The Confederation of Football Associations of North and Central America (CONCACAF) and the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) in particular, continue to suffer grave damage to their reputation by the fall-out from the bribery scandal which has rocked the world governing body of football, FIFA.{{more}} The on-going saga has forced the resignation of once-considered FIFA strongman, Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, who held the powerful posts of FIFA Vice-President as well as President, of both CONCACAF and CFU, in addition to being the de facto kingpin of football in his native Trinidad and Tobago. Warner’s football powerbase enabled him to extend his wings into the political arena and he has become the virtual power behind the throne in his country, holding posts as Deputy Prime Minister, senior Minister of government and Chairman of the ruling party.

It is common knowledge that Warner has wielded purse strings effectively to extend his considerable influence throughout the Caribbean to the extent that it has long been accepted in regional football circles that the road to success passes through ‘Jack’. But side by side with his growing influence, were allegations of improper dealings and, at least on two occasions, he was implicated in major ticketing scandals. However such scandals are not unknown in FIFA, which seems impervious to calls for transparency and morality, so “the house that Jack built” stood proudly.

All now seems to be tumbling down following the latest cash-for-votes scandal surrounding FIFA’s last Presidential elections and the alleged role of Warner in it. With pressure mounting worldwide, the defiant Warner has now been forced into a situation where he had to tender his resignation from all his posts. But what is the truth of the matter? What was the role of the various CFU member-associations in it? There has been a wall of silence from them about the supposed receipt of US$40,000 each as an inducement to support Asian football President Mohammed bin Hamman in his bid to oust Sepp Blatter as FIFA President.

Our own Football Association here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has so far resisted calls for an official statement. While one can well understand the legal implications involved in the on-going investigations, observance of the basic principle of accountability demands that some official statement, if not explanation, be forthcoming. We are not asking for any gory details or any statement which would implicate or compromise any individual or association, but surely, the local football community ought to be treated with more respect than has been shown so far.

Indeed, the matter is so big that it reaches far beyond football. The very reputation of the Caribbean is at stake. Are we to be considered in international circles as ‘takers’ of what is really petty cash for our voting rights? Do we really sell our rights for the biblical “mess of pottage”? And, if we do that in football, what does it say about us and far more important votes such as our political ballots? ‘Jack’ Warner is not the only person in the region for whom football was a stepping stone to politics.

Already the storm clouds are enveloping even ‘Jack’s’ formerly impregnable castle with the news from Trinidad and Tobago that Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has removed Transport from Warner’s former Transport and Works portfolio. The stakes are huge; we cannot allow the countries of our region to be considered as international prostitutes, to be bought and sold for selfish interests of others.