KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Chuck Blazer, the millionaire businessman who has just announced his impending retirement from the FIFA exco, has been a larger-than-life figure within the world federation for the past 16 years.
Before then, however, he was one of the most influential powers in the rise of professional soccer in the United States which culminated in the hosting of the World Cup finals in 1994 and launch of Major League Soccer.
He developed the USSF’s national team programme in the 1980s, served one term as executive vice-president of the federation and was then commissioner of the American Soccer League before gaining access to the levers of international football power through the general secretarship of CONCACAF which he assumed in 1990.
Controversial Trinidadian politician Warner and Blazer turned a hitherto sleepy confederation into a political force within world football.
Blazer’s particular pride was in the high-tech television control suites he constructed within a suite of offices in Trump Tower on New York’s prestigious Fifth Avenue.
Soon he was a fixture within various FIFA committees and joined the exco in 1997 as CONCACAF delegate for North America after the death of long-serving Mexican Guillermo Canedo.
That move brought Blazer into conflict with the USSF’s banker president, Alan Rothenberg, who objected to a paid official of the confederation being also a FIFA delegate. Blazer won through because, unlike most other confederations, the duality was sanctioned by CONCACAF’s own statutes.
The high point of his FIFA tenure was as chairman of the crucial marketing and TV committee which negotiated the deals on which the financial success of both the World Cup and the world federation itself are founded.
The beginning of the end, however, was Warner’s decision to turn his back on long-time FIFA president Sepp Blatter and support Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam in the 2011 presidential campaign.
Warner arranged a campaign conference in the May in Port of Spain to which all members of the Caribbean Football Union were invited. The next day all the delegates were offered $40,000 in cash as ‘expenses.’
Some took the money, others told Blazer who commissioned an inquiry and reported events to FIFA in Zurich. That was the whistleblowing action which led, ultimately, to the FIFA exit door for both Warner and Bin Hammam.
In the fall-out Blazer also became a focus of controversy as his financial arrangements with CONCACAF were revealed, involving offshore accounts, contract-completion bonuses and unexplained loans.
Reports of investigations by FBI and IRS were never confirmed by either organisation and Blazer insisted all his financial dealing within CONCACAF had been properly documented and declared.
Meanwhile Blazer detailed his life and times and travels and meetings with world personalities in an entertaining blog. Bizarrely, he was also revealed to have had a vintage Mercedes-Benz car garaged at FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
Blazer, currently, is deputy chairman of FIFA’s football committee and a member of the committees overseeing the World Cup, players’ status and club football.
In an interview to be found on FIFA.com Blazer describes football as meaning “unity and teamwork – a slice of life,” says he supported Manchester United as a boy . . . and names Joao Havelange as his football idol – “a majestic symbol of elegance in our sport.”
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