By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 3rd 2021)
There is no doubt that the Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) was riddled with corruption for many years – and shamefully CONCACAF and the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) acquiesced with it. Former CONCACAF President, the notorious Jack Warner started out in football in the 1960s.
Warner became Secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation in 1973 – a post he held until 1990 when he became President of the Caribbean Football Union. Seven years earlier Warner became Vice-President of CONCACAF and a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee (ExCo).
In 1990 Warner ousted then CONCACAF President, Joaquín Soria Terrazas for the confederation’s top job. The Méxican, who had been in power for 21 years, died in October but was inducted into CONCACAF’s Hall of Fame two years later. This opened the door for Warner and new CONCACAF General Secretary, Chuck Blazer to exploit opportunities – both enriched themselves but ultimately brought each other down.
Warner was accused of corruption on a grand scale. Implicated in the Mohammed bin Hamman Scandal, Warner resigned from all football related positions while a probe was underway in 2011. Two years later CONCACAF published its findings that Warner had defrauded both it and FIFA.
England’s FA was aggrieved too. It had courted Warner in 2008, arranging a match in Trinidad. It still remains a mystery what footballing benefit then England manager Fabio Capello got from that match – the football politics benefit was plain to see.
Why would England travel thousands of miles for a match of such dubious benefit to the players? What could Capello gain from such a match. The FA claim that the manager chooses opponents and asks the FA to arrange those matches. What would Capello stand to gain from such a match? The FA had plenty to gain – court Warner and try to win support from CONCACAF for England’s World Cup bid.
The FA’s attempts to court Warner backfired on every level. Warner made requests that the English later denounced. But their wooing of Warner resulted in criticism from FIFA’s Ethics Committee. The FA it claimed had indulged Warner to the point of securing employment for one of Warner’s acquaintances. The FA rejected the 42-page report, but mud stuck – it’s hard to explain why Warner was courted and why they agreed to a match of such dubious worth.
Nevertheless, the FA slated FIFA over corruption and their failed bid. But why? FIFA had made it clear that it wanted to take its premier tournament around the world. England may have invented the game and had last hosted in 1966, but the Netherlands had been in two finals – a third would soon follow – when the FA’s courtship of Warner began. The Dutch had never hosted or co-hosted a World Cup. Greece had won Euro2004 and had never hosted the World Cup. Portugal was a football power, yet to deliver a major trophy but it had never hosted the World Cup. Nor at that point had Russia (or its predecessors the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics, USSR, or the Commonwealth of Independent States, CIS). In short, there was no shortage of nations who had as good or better grievances than England in terms of hosting the World Cup.
But another nation felt entitled and embittered, the USA, and it was not about to take its rebuff for 2022 lightly.