Thursday, September 14, 2006
With Friends Like These...
Increasingly, in recent years, FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s grip on power has depended on the support of a few influential “friends”. Perhaps the closest of Blatter’s FIFA allies now finds himself again the subject of serious allegations. And it is not the first time that the crass, arrogant figure in question has come in for strong criticism.
His name is Austin “Jack” Warner, president of CONCACAF and one of FIFA’s vice-presidents. He is one of the most powerful individuals in football. And the history of his involvement in FIFA should be more widely known.
Warner has ensured Blatter a loyal CONCACAF bloc in recent presidential elections, and his support has not gone unnoticed. To take only one of many examples, the first major beneficiary of the “Goal!” project, ostensibly an initiative to provide financial support for the football third world, was…Trinidad and Tobago.
With his high-handed, bullying style, Warner has managed to intimidate the FIFA executive over the years to the extent that CONCACAF is now allotted a thoroughly undeserved three and a half places at the World Cup finals. Thanks to this generous complement, Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the World Cup in 2006 for the first time.
And that is where the story really starts.
It was one of the more interesting (and significant) pre-World Cup stories, but Warner escaped unscathed by the simple expedient of severing his own connection to the Simpaul agency. Never mind his outrageously unethical prior involvement, that was enough for the FIFA executive. This three wise monkeys attitude to such a serious ethical breach by a FIFA vice-president says a great deal about the standards of the organization under Blatter.
But in the last few days, there have been new developments. Blatter’s nemesis, the British investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, has delivered a nasty blow to Warner’s credibility, and further investigations are afoot.
How much longer can, or should, Sepp Blatter’s “friends” rely on his support? We shall see.
The amount of corruption that goes on in FIFA (and it's sub-organisations) is worrying when you consider it's one of the most powerful and influential NGOs around. It rivals the UN and ICRC.