Friday, September 2, 2011

Jack's back to chuck Blazer a grenade

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Caribbean...

Jack Warner, the infamous former CONCACAF boss and FIFA Vice-President, is back in the news.

Still smarting from his banishment in June after almost three decades in the corridors of football power, Warner has taken aim at Chuck Blazer, his long-term colleague who reported him to the FIFA Ethics Committee for reasons hitherto unclear.

Now, if he is to be believed, the reason was money.

Andrew Jennings had reported several large sums moving from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) to offshore accounts in the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands belonging to Blazer, which the American explained as repayments of personal loans from Warner, mistakenly routed through the CFU.

Warner however, strongly implies Blazer is lying.

"These were absolutely not in repayment for any loan," said the former FIFA kingmaker. "I have never had occasion to borrow money from Blazer. These monies were paid from the Caribbean Football Union’s account with funds received from FIFA...I do not know why Blazer is pretending otherwise."

If true, it would not be the first time Chuck has struggled with truth. In 2006, a New York judge famously branded Blazer in a FIFA rights dispute as "generally without credibility" due to his "evasive answers" and "fabricated" testimony.

The 66 year-old, as Jennings revealed, has been milking CONCACAF for years, creaming off 10% of the association's sponsorship and TV rights and receiving large payments above and beyond his salary, all funneled into his offshore accounts. As Blazer's blog confirms, he certainly lives the champagne lifestyle with frequent trips to high-end restaurants, overseas jaunts paid for by FIFA, an apartment in Trump Tower and properties in Florida, North Carolina and the Bahamas.

So vast is the New Yorker's girth from FIFA's largesse he apparently does not fit into their limousines anymore, so soccer's governing body pays for a van to transport him around Switzerland. For when he requires a little more style, he can call upon a vintage Mercedes worth $130,000, parked at soccer HQ in Zurich, all expenses paid.

A shameless celeb-shagger, Blazer proudly splashes a photo of him and Nelson Mandela no less on his blog's homepage, along with shots of several world dignitaries paying homage to him, including Britain's Prince William, who was privately furious at being lied to by Blazer and others at the World Cup vote. He has also looked after his family, handing a FIFA job to his daughter and a CONCACAF one to his son.

Standard operating procedure for FIFA fat-cats, you might think. The tipping-point, according to Warner, was a Blazer demand for yet more cash: "His attitude significantly deteriorated," claims Warner, "when after I had paid him the total of $750,000, I told him that I would not not pay an additional $250,000 that he was requesting be forwarded to his private account...instead...Blazer treacherously planned and coordinated an attack on myself and the CFU."

So after Warner and Mohammed Bin-Hammam bit the dust, the clock is ticking on 'The Third Man' in this triangle of corruption, a man initially praised by some sections of the press for an apparently noble act of whistle-blowing. With the FBI now on Blazer's case, the night of the cash-bags at the Hyatt in Trinidad last May could be about to claim its third victim.

Interestingly, Warner said in his statement that both Werner Fricker and Alan Rothenberg at US Soccer opposed Blazer's promotion within CONCACAF and FIFA. If only they had been listened to...

Warner had promised "a tsunami" after being ushered out of football but beyond revealing FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke believed Qatar had bought the 2022 World Cup, no ill winds have blown until now.

Watching thieves fall out is good fun, and Bin Hammam's blog has never been so readable since he was given a life-ban by a committee he now labels "The Kangaroo Court-FIFA Branch", but the day when soccer is run by honest and transparent men and women instead of self-serving cowboys still seems a long way off.

-Sean O'Conor


Phil McCracken said...

Sad to say, but our best hope for reform at FIFA are for displaced people like Warner & Bin Hammam to keep airing dirty laundry.

Ordinarily, this approach could work, but how do you shame people who are shameless?

J.D. Springer said...

Too bad we can't get all of the FIFA and CONCACAF scum paired up to destroy each other like Warner and Blazer seem to be doing. And does Blazer remind anyone else of Hagrid from the Harry Potter films?