Editorial: Clean house on Caribbean, global football
There are unlikely to be many people shocked by the latest allegations of corruption in the world football's governing body, FIFA, leading to Wednesday's dramatic arrest of several of the game's leading executives at a posh Swiss hotel, and America's indictment of others on bribery and money-laundering charges. It is what they have grown to expect of Sepp Blatter's organisation.
Of what this newspaper is surprised is that Jeffrey Webb, the Cayman Islands president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and FIFA vice-president, was among those nabbed at the behest of the United States and ranked among those deeply engaged in the game's corporate sleaze. We are particularly absorbed by Webb's case because it comes particularly close to home. Not only is he a Caribbean national, but he is a citizen of one of Jamaica's closest neighbours and leads a regional body of which this country is an important member.
It is not, of course, that we expected that Mr Webb sported a halo or sang in choirs. He has been around international football long enough to know that he must, or ought to, have been aware of the rot in the global sport. We had hoped, and Mr Webb's public demeanour gave cause for optimism, that he was personally untainted by the filth.
Indeed, when Jack Warner walked the plank over the Mohammed bin Hammam bribery scandal after his long and, many will claim, venal leadership of CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) and one-time Blatter ally in FIFA, Mr Webb positioned himself as a reformer, intent on changing the impunity with which football was managed in the region. He adopted a similar posture at a FIFA meeting, being among the few in the organisation's top tier to support the full publication of the report into accusations that the bids for the venues for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were rigged.
Of course, Mr Webb, like anyone else accused of a crime, is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But what happened in Geneva has great portent as much for Jamaican and regional football as it does for FIFA.
When Jack Warner's leadership of regional football finally disintegrated from its own corrosiveness, we urged national associations and federations as well as regional bodies to deeply review their structures and governance arrangements to embrace a transparency that is not the norm for the sport. We also suggested that former Warner acolytes should be afforded no place in the top leadership of the reformed institutions. Our reasoning, in part, was based on the view that with the best intent, leaders who take organisations or firms into disrepute are rarely the ones to turn them around. It is difficult to muster the will.
Over the past four years, the reform project in Caribbean football has been, at best, tepid. Stakeholders have largely been passive by-standers, unlike what English-speaking Caribbean countries have demanded from the regional cricket body. People must now insist on change and demand full transparency on what happened in the bin Hammam affair, including why people may have been suspended.
By the same token, if Sepp Blatter really cares about football and wants a rebuilding of FIFA's reputation, he should forget tomorrow's vote on his presidency and step aside now.