Caribbean Football Union (CFU) member countries reportedly discussed the new 2022 World Cup qualification format for the CONCACAF region two years ago and agreed with the move in principle.
However, yesterday, Grenada Football Association (GFA) president Cheney Joseph and Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) counterpart Michael Ricketts gave conflicting reports on how the discussion went down in the lead-up to CONCACAF's new format announcement last week.
In its announcement last week, CONCACAF said the team ranked in the top six by FIFA in September 2020 will enter a Hexagonal phase competition to play for three guaranteed places in the World Cup. The second part of the qualifiers will be played in a group stage among CONCACAF countries ranked 7-35 according and the top team from these qualifiers will earn the right to face the fourth-place team from the Hexagonal stage for the right to enter a final play-off with another Confederation, either Oceania or Asia, for another spot in the World Cup.
But this is in total contrast to the previous qualifying system, in which teams progressed the 'Hex' based on their performance and placement in the different group qualifiers.
This sparked debate in football circles on whether the move was designed to benefit the CONCACAF powerhouses to the detriment of the weaker CFU teams, since the lower ranked teams would have to play more football and would not get a chance top upset the top teams for the three automatic spots, in the first instance.
Addressing the issue yesterday, though, Joseph confirmed that a proposal for this change was made to CFU members about two years ago, while Ricketts said it came from a recent meeting and there was no resistance from the members.
In fact, Cheney told Guardian Media Sports that only T&T Football Association president David John-Williams objected to the decision to change the qualifying format but that came after it was already made.
Ricketts said a meeting of all the CONCACAF members was held soon after the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup and CFU members all supported the change.
"I supported it, maybe not voted, and it will certainly have negative implications on some teams. In fact, my own country, because we are in Pool B of the Nations' League, we have got to be careful, as we have got to be hopeful, that other teams can be the top teams and could take the lead, as it relates to our position right now," Ricketts said.
Both Ricketts and Joseph pledged their support for the new format, saying it will require regional members to put the necessary programmes in place to be among the top qualifying nations.
But Ricketts could not answer questions on how CONCACAF arrived at the final decision, saying it was made at the CONCACAF Council and taken to the general membership, where no objections were raised.
"It was tabled at a meeting we had and I suppose you would have had options to disagree or not to disagree, but it was presented and I personally liked it, so I supported it. And I would think if you never agreed, you could have expressed your desire and expressed your disagreement, but nobody did so it means therefore, it was taken that all of us would have supported it," Ricketts explained.
Joseph said they could look at it from the standpoint of the format putting teams at a disadvantage, or they can see it as an opportunity to put the right programme in place to facilitate development and better their performances in the future.
Also contacted yesterday, TTFA president John-Williams refused to comment, saying he wanted to go through the right channels.
Meanwhile, former CONCACAF and CFU president Austin Jack Warner said the change was done deliberately to get back at him.
"It was done in a most clandestine manner by Mr Sunil Gulati, of the US Soccer Federation, the defacto president of CONCACAF, and this was done to get at Jack Warner. In a secret meeting in New York, he sat down with the presidents, who have no real power cause he has it, and said since they cannot get Jack Warner, let them go after T&T. That was done to keep T&T out, and that they never, ever again, have to face the humiliation they faced in 2017."
Warner, of course, was referring to the 2-1 defeat T&T handed to the United States in October 2017 at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva which dumped them out the last World Cup in Russia.
Howeverm, he said it would have been possible for the CFU to get the deciswion ovetruend if they wished.
Said Warner, "The CFU, if they had one functioning, could demand a special meeting of the Congress, and call a meeting to overturn that decision. Or better yet ,write to the FIFA because they are being unfair. It is an injustice, it is wrong, it is meant to strangle the Caribbean and most importantly T&T, that the rich countries are playing less matches and the poorer ones are playing more matches. And worse again, the FIFA ranking is flawed."
He also denied reports that the decision had received the support from the CFU, saying there was never a meeting of the CFU and that the only received the support from the offices of Barbados and Jamaica.