Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pencils Down, Time Is Up

Tariq Panja reports that the other shoe has dropped; FIFA will begin "corruption proceedings against more than 10 Caribbean officials . . ." Per Mr. Panja's reporting, FIFA's ethics panel will meet today following more witnesses coming forward.

The committee will separately hear claims made against the august former CONCACAF head man Lisle Austin for his bizarre actions following the initial fallout. However, the identities of those that may be implicated regarding the May meeting is, as yet, unknown.

Some educated guesses can be made.

Trinidad's The Guardian notes that the country's FA president, Oliver Camps, stated that the federation had declined FIFA's invitation to provide more information regarding their involvement in the meeting.

So that probably doesn't bode well for a federation already in crisis.

And its probably worth pausing on the state of the T&TFF in the wake of Jack Warner's stewardship: it is bankrupt.

A trip scheduled to Port-au-Prince for a friendly against Haiti was canceled over a lack of funds.

And why is T&TFF bankrupt? Cue Trinidad's Minister of Sport Anil Roberts:
"The TTFF is the worst-run sporting organisation in Trinidad and Tobago," stated Roberts. "They flout all rules and procedures. They totally disregard all checks and balances that are here at the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company. Checks and balances are very important for transparency, accountability and making sure we get value for money. This is taxpayers' money we are dealing with."
Minister Roberts was happy to provide examples to defend the decision to support football in Trinidad but not the federation:

"They presented a document which states that a assistant coach with the national team is being paid $120,000 per month. Our investigations shows that no assistant coach was getting anything close to that figure.

"So, at that time in August, we asked for all contracts for the coach Russell Latapy, the assistant coaches, the technical consultant, all of these things. We asked for contracts to verify these figures so that we can say this is a legitimate figure. We have not received one contract for anybody, whether it is Russell Latapy for a year ago, or whether it is now Otto Pfister." . . .

"We have no clue how much Mr Pfister works for. We have not been given a contract for Pfister or for anyone. No money can be disbursed to anyone without legitimate documentation. So, the Government has agreed that we will fund football. However, the TTFF will not get a blank cheque, or a cheque for any amount of money for them to do as they please," Roberts insisted.

But surely Mr. Warner has left a legacy for football that can be the foundation for a renewal?

Mr. Camps, Mr. Camps?:
"Football is just like any of the other sports. Just like many of them we don't have a permanent home for football, and just like many other sports we have to book the stadium and such venues for matches."
I seem to recall that a whole bunch of soccer stadiums were built in T&T. Wonder what happened to that.

In any event, as Mr. Camps explains, there just isn't any money to be made in football in Trinidad:
"You know that local football doesn't generate funds," Camps declared. "To generate spectator interest, we have to bring in top teams to generate funds. And usually after paying for these teams and paying the players and other expenses, most times we just break even. People think we make big money, but many times we just break even."
Just break even. I think that is Mr. Warner's motto.

Leaving Trinidad for now, Stanford Conway of SKNVibes penned a fine story published on Sunday regarding the role of St. Kitts and Nevis's FA in this rollicking feel-good story.

Per Mr. Conway's piece, the president of the St. Kitts-Nevis Football Association, Anthony Johnson, explained:
"We have in the past cooperated with the FIFA Ethics Committee in their investigation and we will remain committed to doing so in the future. That really is the gist of our position and I don't really wish to add anything further to that."
And that follows a June 6th press release from the association declaiming any involvement in nefarious affairs; no bribes offered or accepted there. So nothing really to see here.

But Mr. Conway is undaunted and he posits the following entirely appropriate questions:
If it were a fact that the money offered by bin Hammam to the CFU officials was gifts for the enhancement of their respective organisations and not as bribes, then why did the officials from The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos return theirs?

If it were a fact that the envelopes containing money were given to all officials present at the Trinidad conference, why did 15 of them denied [sic] receiving any? And if they had indeed accepted cash gifts for their associations’ development, was it recorded in their accounts ledgers? What was it used for? Where is the tangible evidence of its disbursement and why was it not publicised?
And most saliently for those members that chose not to come clean to FIFA:
If there were no infringement to FIFA's rules and regulations concerning the illegal transfer of cash, why then were Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester placed on a one-year ban by the Ethics Committee?
Mr. Conway sought out James Buchanan, a past General-Secretary of SKNFA, for his thoughts and, as explained in the article, the unwillingness of some CFU officials to provide honest disclosures or to walk away from Jack Warner has endangered the Union's power.

Buchanan describes Mr. Austin's ill-timed broadside against Chuck Blazer as "premature and tactically bad."

He also offers good advice for CFU's leadership:
"They cannot ostracise the CFU members who reported receiving cash. It is time for Captain Burrell and Colin Klass to step up and step off on their own and bring new direction to the CFU. The problem is that they will first have to come clean on the CFU scandal and avoid any FIFA sanctions."
Yet, even if they wanted to, Captain Burrell and Mr. Klass will be unable to follow the recommendation.

That train left the station a while back.

Or, switching metaphors, the test of leadership created by bin Hammam's "gifts" to the CFU is over. If Bloomberg's reporting is correct, a whole lot of people failed.

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