KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING
— PORT OF SPAIN: Jack Warner, a day later than scheduled, has lived up to his promise of launching another attack on FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Warner quit as a vice-president of the world federation, as president of the Central and North American confederation and as president of his Caribbean Football Union powerbase last summer.
He walked away from all football rather than face a FIFA Ethics Committee hearing into bribery allegations concerning the organisation’s presidential election on June 1 which saw Blatter re-elected unopposed.
Warner, furious, promised a “football tsunami” which would wreak havoc for Blatter and for FIFA.
His first attacks went off like damp squibs and he then insisted he would hold further fire until after Mohamed Bin Hammam, the former Asian president and one-time Blatter rival, had challenged his FIFA life ban before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Qatari Bin Hammam’s CAS hearing has been set for January 23 but Warner has been provoked into breaking his silence early. The trigger was a conference in Zurich just before Christmas in which FIFA took over reorganising the CFU in its own preferred image.
Last week Warner let fly at Blatter and FIFA for that initiative and promised a further salvo on Wednesday this week.
This had already been a bad week for Blatter and FIFA after revelations from the Supreme Cantonal Court in Zug, Switzerland. These demonstrated that, while Blatter was telling the world in October that he intended opening up the case file in the long-running ISL saga, he knew that FIFA was, simultaneously, party to a court action seeking to keep it closed.
Perhaps this was the reason Warner held off for 24 hours longer than planned in unleashing his new attack on Blatter’s FIFA.
In a statement Warner – Minister of Works in Trinidad & Tobago – claimed that, through a Mexican company called OTI, he had been awarded World Cup television rights in the territory for as little as $1 in return for helping Blatter becoming FIFA president in 1998.
Blatter has been a central FIFA official since 1975, for most of that time as general secretary then chief executive. In 1998 he defeated the then UEFA leader Lennart Johansson to become FIFA president after what Warner described as a “brutal” election to succeed retiring Brazilian Joao Havelange.
Warner has claimed he, personally, was also sold the rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups after supporting Blatter in an even more bitter re-election campaign in 2002 and that he also bought rights for the 2010 and 2014 tournaments.
He said that he and Bin Hammam had played “extremely critical roles in his  re-election as well as in preventing several members of the then executive committee from instituting criminal charges against him.” The ‘criminal charges’ note referred to a complaint about Blatter’s running of FIFA which was submitted to the Swiss authorities by the European members of the FIFA exco. They had acted on a dossier provided by the then general secretary, Michel Zen-Ruffinen.
After Blatter’s re-election the complaint was withdrawn and Zen-Ruffinen was sacked.
Warner’s statement asserted that the 2010 and 2014 World Cup TV rights had been “sold to me personally . . . using the CFU as the vehicle.” He said that the profits from the various TV deals had been used to fund grassroots football development in the Caribbean.
Further ‘deals’ had been set up linking the 2011 FIFA presidential election with World Cup rights.
Warner said: “In 2011, in exchange for my support (and by extension the support of the CFU and the CONCACAF) in the FIFA presidential election, the FIFA again offered me the sale of the World Cup rights for 2018 and 2022 as a ‘gift’ at a nominal fee.” FIFA had also agreed to give CONCACAF a combined total of $1m for two Goal development projects.
He added: “Notwithstanding the inducements offered, I … refused to endorse Sepp Blatter for the 2011 FIFA presidential election.”
This contradicts a statement he made just before the election in Zurich on June 1. On May 30 Warner wrote to all Caribbean delegates, telling them: “At our last meeting we agreed as a union to support the incumbent Joseph Sepp Blatter in his quest to regain the presidency. I wish to assure you nothing has changed – our mandate was set then and despite it all we must fulfil it.”
In his latest statement Warner has said that FIFA has now withdrawn the television rights for the 2014 World Cup and revoked the offers for 2018 and 2022.
The challenge now facing a man who was discredited by his ignominiously hasty exit from football is providing documents which stand up his claims. Without those he stands no chance of inflicting any serious damage on Blatter and will face counter-attacking accusations of sour grapes.
FIFA has said it will “look into” media reports concerning Warner’s allegations.