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Editorial: No to CONCACAF old guard

Published:Friday | May 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Four years ago when Jack Warner retreated from global and regional football rather than face scrutiny over the bin Hammam bribery scandal, this newspaper urged that the leadership posts he vacated not be filled by any of his acolytes - the persons he had nurtured in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) and the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).

Again, in the face of this week's United States corruption indictments against top global football figures, including CONCACAF's

president, Jeffrey Webb, we warn against reaching out to the associates, friends and partners of the old or existing guard.

Our position in 2011 rested on the premise that whatever the truth of the allegations against Jack Warner, his long stints at the helm of CONCACAF and the CFU, and as a vice-president of football's world governing body, FIFA, were widely perceived as corrupt and venal. The Caribbean, we felt, had an opportunity to influence the installation of new, transparent and accountable governance structures in these two regional organisations in which it had substantial heft.

The house-cleaning didn't happen as we hoped. But we are encouraged by the developments. Gordon Derrick, the Antiguan president of the CFU, was of the old network and seemed intent on democratising the organisation.

While Mr Webb had strong links with the old structure, as leader of CONCACAF and as a vice-president of FIFA, he made promising statements about accountability in the global body and against corruption in the sport, generally. He appeared to be among a new generation of would-be reformers. It is against that backdrop that we were surprised that Mr Webb is among those, Warner included, indicted for soliciting bribes and taking kickbacks from companies in exchange for marketing and media rights to regional football tournaments.

Of course, Jeffrey Webb may yet be proven guiltless in a court of law. But in the circumstance of his arrest in Zurich, where he was attending FIFA's biennial congress, and likely extradition to the United States, it is difficult to see Mr Webb continuing in a leadership role in regional or global football, even if he is acquitted. In the meantime, someone will be required to act in his position at CONCACAF.


special circumstances


We suppose that the immediate default will be the invocation of the constitutional provisions covering what is to happen when a FIFA organisation's president, either temporarily or for good, is incapable of fulfilling his obligations. While we have healthy respect for constitutional provisions, we believe that these are special circumstances, requiring extraordinary action.

First, the Americans have warned that this week's indictments were merely the beginning. Their probe of FIFA and its constituent bodies, including CONCACAF, will continue. In that regard, it would be prudent for senior officers of the confederation to step aside, at least for the time being, so that there could be no claim of them doing anything to impede or taint the investigations.

But there is a more fundamental reason why they should take this action, which is our starting position. CONCACAF, as does FIFA, deserves a major overhaul if it is to repair its image and recapture its integrity and the public trust. And as we often note, executives who lead institutions into crises are rarely well placed to lead them out of them.