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Warner’s rise to power in FIFA

Published: 
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Austin Jack Warner

FIFA vice-president and CONCACAF president Austin Jack Warner has been a member of the FIFA Executive Committee since 1983, and CONCACAF president since 1990. Estimates suggest that he has amassed a fortune of almost US$50 million. When Warner became the general secretary of the Trinidad Football Association in 1973, he immediately entrenched his power by setting up numerous organisations filled with his people, who could exercise voting rights should he come under threat from a competitor.

He rapidly spotted a chance for further promotion when he ran for the presidency of the Caribbean Football Union, which came with the added prize of a seat on the FIFA Executive Committee. Warner helped formed the Trinidad and Tobago's Professional Football League (PFL) in 1999, then the first professional football league in the Caribbean, which has since been superseded by the T&T Pro League. Warner purchased the Scarlet Ibis Hotel in St Augustine for TT$6 million in 1998, which he renovated and renamed the Emerald Apartments and Plaza.

Run by his son Daryl, that entity sponsored local football competitions, including the 2010 Eastern Football Association Emerald Apartments and Plaza Cup. Warner also owns Kantac Plaza in Arouca, which was used as the base for T&T’s successful 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign. He has other real estate holdings, including the offices used by Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) and CONCACAF. CONCACAF pays Warner “nearly a third of a million dollars a year” rent. Warner also claims business interests in Costa Rica and the United States. Warner states that his investments were funded from “the salary and allowances I received from FIFA.”

He was re-elected for a new term as FIFA vice-president in 2011. During his tenure, Warner has been implicated in numerous corruption allegations that reach back as far as the 1980s. On May 10, 2011, corruption allegations were levelled against Warner by former English Football Association chairman, Lord David Triesman. Triesman alleged that Warner was one of four FIFA executive committee members who asked for money in return for his vote supporting England’s 2018 World Cup bid. FIFA senior executives Mohamed bin Hammam and Warner have been suspended pending a full investigation into bribery allegations that they offered US$1 million in bribes to delegates at a Caribbean soccer association meeting on May 10-11 in Trinidad.

The payments were allegedly made to secure votes for bin Hammam, in his campaign to unseat Blatter. The evidence was compiled by US executive committee member Chuck Blazer. Following is the time line chronologising Warner’s ascendancy in FIFA and the controversies that have dogged him:

1963: General Secretary of the Central Football Association.
1971–73:  General Secretary of the Central St George Football Association.
1973: Secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF).
1983: CONCACAF vice-president and also joined the FIFA Executive Committee.
1990: Elected president of the Caribbean Football Union, resigning his post in the same year at TTFF, but was immediately appointed a special adviser, a position that he still holds. He was also elected CONCACAF president.
1996: launched of Joe Public Football Club.
1997: Appointed FIFA vice-president.
2010: Stated his intention to stand for re-election as FIFA vice-president in 2011.
2011: Re-elected for a new term as FIFA vice-president.

CONTROVERSIES
1989: During T&T’s ill-fated World Cup 1990 qualifying encounter with the US at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, Warner announced that extra tickets would be printed for the game and alcohol restrictions within the ground would be lifted. The stadium’s 28,500 capacity seating was oversold and 45,000 tickets were printed.
1996:  Warner was involved in substituting Vincy Jalal, the girlfriend of the head of the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF), Horace Burrell into the place of the absent Haitian delegate, Dr Jean-Marie Kyss, in the 1996 FIFA Congress.
1998: Haiti’s vote was also replaced at the 1998 FIFA Congress, this time by Trinidadian Neville Ferguson.
2001: The Under-17 World Cup was awarded to T&T.  Contracts to build five new stadiums went to companies linked to associates of Warner. When technical staff from the broadcasting companies visited the new venues, they discovered that roof beams and cables would obstruct the cameras’ angles of the pitch. When they tried to question Warner and FIFA over this, they were sidelined.

• All the food and beverage contracts for the new stadiums were awarded to a local restaurant business, owned by Warner’s son, Daryan.
• The flights and accommodation arrangement for the 15 teams participating in the tournament were done through Simpaul’s Travel service, owned by the Warner family.
• FIFA was experimenting with introducing kiosks in hotel lobbies to enable fans to access instant reports and breaking news. The US$2 million contract was awarded to a company called Semtor, whose project manager turned out to be Daryan Warner, who picked up a cheque for US$60,000 as ‘management liaison between all Web initiative consultants.’

2002:  Various global media publications alleged that Warner had made a profit of $350,000 selling 2002 FIFA World Cup tickets.
2004: When meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace, he complained to her that British companies were failing to spend their sponsorship money on football in T&T. (Jennings,
p.320)
2005: T&T qualified for the World Cup for the first time after Dennis Lawrence’s header knocked out Bahrain to send T&T to Germany. The only way that Trinidadians could get tickets for the team’s first-round matches was through Simpaul Travel Services, the company owned by Warner. Tickets for the three group stage games and shared accommodation would cost fans £2,730.53. Simpaul Travel was making a profit of over £1,700 on each package sold. The Independent newspaper in England suggested that Warner made a profit of over £10 million on T&T’s ticket allocation. A privately appointed committee was responsible for handling the sponsorship and merchandising for the team.

After a request from a London-based business, they requested a fee of US$80,000, plus five per cent of gross sales of the proposed merchandise. The representative of the private committee turned out to be Daryl Warner, one of Warner’s sons. FIFA regulations stated that packaging tickets with other services was not permitted, but Warner’s own company was flouting FIFA’s own rules, while he was accused of selling FIFA tickets for his own personal profit. In consequence of being found guilty of breaking FIFA’s Article 5, minutes of FIFA’s executive committee indicate that a fine of almost US$1 million, equal to the expected profiteering, was imposed on the family. Warner also agreed to severe all family links with Simpaul immediately.

However, Warner's son Daryan remained a director of Simpaul throughout World Cup 2006, while his personal assistant remained the company secretary of Simpaul. Despite numerous reminders from FIFA, only $250,000 has been paid. The British newspaper The London Daily Mail reported that Warner’s son, Daryan was fined US$1 million in 2007, after investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, the presenter of FIFA’s Dirty Secrets revealed the Ernst & Young report which exposed that Warner had sold tickets through the travel agent Simpaul.

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