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Decision on Warner should wait

Friday, June 3, 2011

In the end the FIFA Congress in Zurich closed ranks and stuck with its long-time president, Joseph Sepp Blatter, giving the 75-year-old Swiss national another four years atop football’s governing body. Inclusive of the regions that stuck with Mr Blatter must be counted the Caribbean Football Union and the wider Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football Association (Concacaf), the former (if not the latter) under the direct guidance and blessings of its suspended president, Austin Jack Warner.
The direction to support Mr Blatter came Tuesday from Mr Warner, 24 hours after he had said to the world that “Blatter must be stopped.”

This extraordinary 360 degree turnaround can only be explained in terms of a Warnerism: “Yesterday was yesterday and today is today.” Before the vote was taken, Mr Blatter offered the concession that no longer will determination of the host of a World Cup be done by the 24-member FIFA Executive Council. From henceforth, he said, the executive body will merely put up a short list upon which the Congress will vote. It is a concession which takes note of the allegations that countries are able to secure the hosting of the World Cup by bribing members and groups of the executive council. It came out in the wash of allegations and counters that the general secretary of FIFA had said that Qatar had “bought” the 2022 games. His subsequent attempt at an explanation was perhaps not accepted by many.

In his acceptance speech, a buoyed Mr Blatter said all the right things, promising to work with the federation to clean it up after years of allegations of gross corruption and self-serving at the highest level of the organisation. The 208-member Congress obviously thought the better option was to go with Mr Blatter, in the absence of a rival candidate, Mohamed bin Hammam and his candidacy being summarily dismissed by FIFA’s ethics committee, to transform the organisation rather than a messy and open crippling brawl. However, FIFA, inclusive of its confederations, must surely have understood that the world has placed it on a short leash. Mr Blatter and his executive must surely be aware of the intolerance being demonstrated in countries around the world for domination and corrupt practices.

They must also be aware that people are holding the power for instant change within their grasp. It cannot therefore be a case of a return to the status quo.Perhaps the first test of a new direction will be discernible out of what emerges from the investigations into bribery allegations made against Mr Warner and Mr bin Hammam, the presidents of Concacaf and the Asian Football Confederation. Eyes will certainly be trained first on the decision of the investigators and the rationale for the conclusion. It is already being said that Mr Warner’s about-face is the result of a “kiss and make up” between himself and the FIFA boss. In the present, the focus will be on the decision of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to “stand by” her minister and await the outcome of the investigation.

Whatever else may be argued, it is the Prime Minister who determines who remains in Cabinet and there can be no shirking of that responsibility: she stands by her word and reaps the consequences, good or bad. And while awaiting the outcome of the investigation seems a logical and sensible thing to do, the Prime Minister must take into consideration the views of the leadership of the UNC’s coalition partner that Mr Warner should be made to wait outside of the Cabinet to be cleared of alleged wrongdoing. This newspaper thinks the expression of different views inside the Cabinet and parties is healthy. This newspaper however firmly believes a final decision on Mr Warner should await the outcome of the investigations.


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