MIAMI - FIFA vice-president Jack Warner
finds himself suspended from office, his supporters turning
against him and his confederation dragged into a corruption row
that has set world football's leaders against each other - all
less than a month after being re-elected president of CONCACAF.
For once, a region which has not produced a World Cup
semi-finalist in the past 80 years, now finds itself at the
heart of the game's affairs - but for all the wrong reasons.
The Gold Cup, the continental championship for CONCACAF's
North and Central America and Caribbean, begins on Sunday in
Dallas with Trinidadian Warner, who has been at the
organisation's helm for over 20 years, 'barred from all football
activities' pending an investigation into bribery allegations.
Vice-president Lisle Austin of Barbados is temporarily at
the head of the federation while the process plays out but it
remains to be seen if he will look to replace Warner, who was
re-elected unanimously, on a permanent basis.
The suspension, handed down by FIFA's Ethics Committee on
Sunday, relates to allegations that were reported to FIFA by
CONCACAF's American general secretary Chuck Blazer.
When CONCACAF re-elected Warner at its congress on May 3 -
the alliance between the bearded Blazer from New York and
Trinidadian Warner looked, on the surface to be strong.
But behind the scenes, Warner, who like Blazer was a
long-standing ally of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, was planning
a meeting with Qatari Mohammed Bin Hammam. It was a get-together
where, Blazer alleges, bribes were handed out.
The charges have been denied by Warner and Bin Hammam but
some Caribbean federations, including Puerto Rico's, have backed
up the claims according to FIFA.
Warner says he has statements from 13 Caribbean federations
backing him. But that presumably leaves 12 that no longer are
willing to give him their support, a near halving of his power
With little hard support for Warner in Central and North
America, his majority has dissipated and it is hard to see how
he could come back to power.
Warner has based his power on the Caribbean Football Union's
25 votes - allied with Blazer's diplomatic skills at keeping the
United States and Mexico on board.
Now that the relationship between Blazer and Warner has been
broken and Warner has lost his monolithic vote block in the
Caribbean, all bets are off.
Mexico, the most successful football nation in the region, has
long been uncomfortable with CONCACAF politics and while rumours
of them splitting away to join South America's CONMEBOL are
almost certainly fanciful, they may decide that now is the time
to lead the Spanish-speaking countries, into a stronger role.
The United States are growing as an economic power in the
sport and while they have been close allies of Warner's -
through Blazer - they too may feel this is the right moment to
use their financial weight and take on a leadership role.
But the numbers - 25 out of 35 full FIFA members from the
region - remain with the Caribbean and it is there that the
short-term future direction of the confederation will be
Will the Warner loyalists look to re-establish their power
or will the rebels, who have provided evidence against him, be
joined by more defectors in the coming days and weeks?
Only one thing is for sure - the events of the past week
mean that CONCACAF will retain its status as a body better known
for it's political role in FIFA than it's teams' performances on
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