by Arley Gill
Now, I do not hold any brief for former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner. I have never met the man, who also once served as a government minister in Trinidad and Tobago. And, if it is that Jack is guilty of any corrupt practices in football, then he was justifiable banned for life by FIFA — soccer’s international governing body — whose members include the Grenada Football Association (GFA).
However, when the storm in FIFA over the corruption scandal broke a couple years ago, I was not prepared to accept the narrative that this Caribbean native was the kingpin of everything wrong at FIFA, which is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.
I wrote at the time that what was happening was part of the culture of the organisation, and that there were other persons more senior than Jack involved in the alleged acts of corruption at FIFA.
Subsequent to my utterances, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini — among other big European names — were found wanting in their conduct and behaviour as well. It proved me right then. Swiss-born Blatter served as FIFA President from 1998 until he resigned in 2015; and Platini, a former French national player, was an executive of both FIFA and the European Football Associations. Now, a report compiled by a team led by Michael Garcia is out. Garcia is a United States lawyer, judge and former government official.
After his appointment as chairman of the investigative chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, Garcia began a probe into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia, and the one in 2022 to Qatar.
Garcia’s report shows that the cesspool of corruption at FIFA is much wider and deeper than previously thought. I always suspected it was, indeed.
For sure, the investigation was long overdue because FIFA was becoming a law unto itself. But in my writings, published in the Grenada weekly newspaper, Caribupdate, I argued that the investigations into FIFA and its leaders by the US and the British agencies, and the press in those countries, were also inspired by the fact that both countries lost out in their bid to host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups respectively.
As well, it is difficult to dismiss the notion that the venom with which Jack Warner was hounded had something to do with the idea than an upstart black fellow, from the Caribbean, had become too ‘mannish’ and dared to move from rags to riches; something that is applauded every day in North America and Europe — even by Jack’s own detractors and those who seek to persecute him.
The Garcia report reveals the great lengths that the British FA went to secure votes for the 2018 World Cup. It discloses that Prince William and then Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time, David Cameron, sat at a table and as such, witnessed a deal to trade votes from South Korea to the British cause. It was the modus operandi of doing business at FIFA. It occurred, even though vote trading is against the rules in FIFA.
The report shows that the English FA placed a lot of emphasis on winning over Jack Warner, who was President ofthe Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). Of course, the CONCACAF block of votes — including that of the GFA — was attractive to all and sundry. The report spoke of a note from Jack Warner, asking the British to waive a debt the Jamaica FA owed the English FA.
It reported on Jack asking for assistance for local cricket in his community from the English FA; for assistance to Joe Public Football Club in Trinidad, among other requests. Now, I always knew from English storybooks that Jack is not a character to play with. I don’t know why the authors thought it was a mere ‘nansi-story. There is no denying that there were personal gains for Jack Warner and other FIFA executives. However, I always found it unacceptable that the British press would make out Jack Warner to be the worst of the lot.
The fact is, for there to be bribery and corruption, there must be two parties — the recipient and the giver. More often than not, those who have are the one to give; and, the rich and powerful countries are the ones who have. After years of slavery and colonialism — where local economies were stripped bare and wealth and profit exported to the metropolitan capitals of Europe — I don’t know that the British, the French and the Dutch, among others, could all of a sudden set the moral standards for the rest of the world. They are yet to pay us reparations for their crimes against us.
The truth is they were very much involved, as individuals and as nations, in the corruption at FIFA. They should be the last to point fingers at us here in the Caribbean.