Sports — 23 April 2013

At its 6th Ordinary Congress held at the Princess Hotel & Casino on Saturday, April 6, and attended by UNCAF President, Rafael Tinoco and CONCACAF General Secretary, Enrique Sanz, FFB President, Ruperto Vicente pulled no punches when he declared that “our Federation was robbed,” referring to the financial and other dealings of the past Dr. Bertie Chimilio led FFB administration.

Through the previous decade and more when the “football family” was demoralized by the dictatorial stranglehold that Dr. Chimilio held on the FFB, violating the statutes when it suited him, it was acknowledged by all on the inside of “Belizean football politics” that Dr. Chimilio’s continued manipulation of the FFB for his own selfish purposes was only possible because he enjoyed the full blessing and support of then CONCACAF President, Alfred “Jack” Warner. Jack Warner, the President of the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation (TFF), banked on Dr. Chimilio’s vote to secure his presidency of CONCACAF.

The pressure for reform has been building within FIFA over the past few years, and Warner resigned his CONCACAF Presidency post to avoid sanctions when a bribery scandal broke in 2010 involving himself and aspiring FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam. According to a FIFA press release on Monday, June 20, 2011, “As a consequence of Mr. Warner’s self-determined resignation, all Ethics Committee procedures against him have been closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained.” But “the long arm of the law” in football would eventually catch up with both Warner and Bin Hammam.

Meanwhile, without the protection of Warner, Dr. Bertie Chimilio was finally defeated in FFB elections on March 15, 2012. So far, he has escaped any sanction from FIFA or the FFB.

Under intense investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee, Bin Hammam had resigned on December 15, 2012, from his position on the FIFA Executive Committee; but two days later on December 17, “the Adjudicatory Chamber (of the FIFA Ethics Committee) decided to ban Mohamed Bin Hammam from all football-related activity for life.”

As to Warner, it all came crashing down for him, as well as former CONCACAF General Secretary Charles “Chuck” Blazer, in the regional arena of the CONCACAF XXVIII Ordinary Congress in Panama on Friday, April 19, in the presence of FIFA President, Joseph Sepp Blatter; CONMEBOL President, Nicolas Leoz; FIFA Vice President, Angel Maria Villar; FIFA Secretary General, Jerome Valcke; CAF General Secretary, Hicham El Amrani; and UEFA General Secretary, Gianni Infantino. A highlight of the Congress was a very damning report by an independent Integrity Committee, established last year at the request of members of the CONCACAF Executive Committee, and chaired by former Barbados Chief Justice, Sir David Simmons.

The Integrity Committee’s report, “which can be found in its totality at www.concacafintegrityreport.com,” was so damaging to the image of Warner, who had previously denied all allegations, that it is felt he was compelled to resign his post two days later as Security Minister in the Trinidad & Tobago Cabinet. (See AP article, “Trinidad PM says Jack Warner quit Cabinet post,” elsewhere in this issue.)

According to the report, both Warner and Blazer “declined the Committee’s requests.. to secure their participation in the investigation,” but “this lack of evidence… was counterbalanced by credible documentary evidence that spoke clearly and cogently about the conduct of each of them. The Committee was careful to rely upon credible documentary evidence wherever possible because, in most instances, the documents provided a compelling account of what happened. The Committee also carefully considered witness statements and credited such statements where circumstances or corroboration warranted such a view.”

“…More specifically, the Committee sought to determine whether Warner or Blazer: (i) committed fraud or misappropriated funds; (ii) violated U.S. federal income tax laws; (iii) breached their fiduciary duties to CONCACAF or CONCACAF Marketing & TV, Inc. (“CMTV”); (iv) violated the CONCACAF Statutes; or (v) violated the FIFA Code of Ethics (the “FIFA Ethics Code”).

And the report was bad, very bad for Warner and Blazer on all counts.

Bin Hammon is banned from football “for life;” Jack Warner is disgraced and has had to resign from his T&T Cabinet post; we don’t know what will become of Chuck Blazer, who has also been disgraced; but on the home front, there is not much that we know of that is being done to document the violations of the past Dr. Bertie Chimilio led FFB administration.

In his address to the CONCACAF XXVIII Ordinary Congress in Panama City on Friday, CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb said, “Today’s congress marks a defining moment for CONCACAF’s vision of a truly transparent future. The development of the game in our region will surely be safeguarded by the oversight of an accountable governance structure, as demanded by all of our member associations.”

Webb’s declaration was backed up by the investment in a high-powered, independent, legal team that presented its findings, the Integrity Committee Report, to the CONCACAF Congress.

In Belize, football fans and players alike believe, like President Ruperto Vicente, that the FFB was “robbed” by its past leadership. The questions facing us are: what will be done about it; and how will we ensure “accountable governance” in the future?

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