PORT OF SPAIN: Jack Warner, in one of his rare football-linked statements, has said he will contest legal action over his ownership of the controversial Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence in Trinidad.
The complex was built with the help of grants of up to £15.5m from world federation FIFA and the central/north American governing body CONCACAF. At the time Warner was president of CONCACAF and also a vice-president of FIFA. He walked away from football in 2011 over bribery allegations.
Later it emerged two years ago that Warner was the owner of the land on which the centre was built. CONCACAF wants to reclaim the centre and/or its expenditure and has launched legal action against Warner, a former Minister of National Security in Trinidad.
Warner said: “I wish to state categorically that the Centre of Excellence is not for sale. Let me also state that CONCACAF does not have any equitable interest in the Centre of Excellence and has no claims to ownership.
“If CONCACAF indeed has filed a caveat against me all I can say is that both CONCACAF and FIFA have unlimited funding and they can spend their money as they wish if they want to do that.”
Warner said the action was part of a political vendetta against him by the Caribbean island’s attorney general.
CONCACAF has said it provided £11m towards funding the centre which includes a swimming complex and fitness centre, a garden sanctuary, a 44-room hotel, a theatre seating 800 people and a banqueting and reception hall.
The 6,000-seat Marvin Lee Stadium, which has artificial turf, is also part of the centre. A CONCACAF report has revealed that a significant sum toards its redevelopment was provided by Football Federation Australia when the Australians were bidding (in vain) to host the 2022 World Cup.
Last year, Warner claimed he was personally given the money to build the centre of excellence in return for helping Sepp Blatter’s election as FIFA president in 1998.
Warner has produced letters from Havelange, Blatter’s predecessor, apparently showing the £4m FIFA loan for the centre, built on land owned by Warner, had been converted into a grant.
In return Warner says he delivered the 30 votes needed for Blatter – at the time “the most hated FIFA official” in Warner’s words – to beat Lennart Johansson for the FIFA presidency in 1998 and named the centre after Havelange.