FIFA’s Warner Says He Quit Soccer Because He Was Undermined
FIFA Vice President Jack Warner said he resigned from soccer’s governing body because he lost the enthusiasm to continue and that people within the organization “sought to undermine me in ways that are unimaginable.”
The 68-year-old head of the Caribbean Football Union and Concacaf regional body quit today after FIFA this month hired FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate bribery claims against Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam, the head of soccer in Asia. FIFA said its probe into Warner has ended after he resigned.
Warner and Bin Hammam were suspended from FIFA pending further investigation on May 29 after Chuck Blazer, a. U.S. official who worked as Concacaf’s general secretary under Warner for two decades, alleged the pair tried to bribe Caribbean voters to choose Bin Hammam in FIFA’s presidential election over incumbent Sepp Blatter.
“I have lost my enthusiasm to continue,” Warner said in a telephone interview today. “The general secretary that I had employed, who worked with me for 21 years, with the assistance of elements of FIFA has sought to undermine me in ways that are unimaginable.”
Blazer didn’t respond to a voicemail seeking comment. In a previous interview he said it was his duty to report wrongdoing.
Warner hasn’t been offered immunity although the inquiries into him “have closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained,” FIFA said in a release today. His replacement on its executive board will be determined by Concacaf, it added.
‘Hung Out to Dry’
Warner, a member of parliament in Trinidad and Tobago, joined Zurich-based FIFA’s top board in 1983, and his control over votes in the Caribbean and Central American region allowed him to become one of the most powerful figures in world soccer.
Blatter, 75, won his fourth term as president after Bin Hammam, his sole challenger, stood down a day before being suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee. Blatter has announced a series of initiatives to improve the organization’s corporate governance and image, and to “deal with its past.”
“This is giving the impression that FIFA is sanitizing itself,” said Warner, who’s also come under pressure at home from opposition lawmakers. “I’ve been hung out to dry continually and I’m not prepared to take that.”
Warner said he regretted not making public a promised declaration for Blatter in May, when the FIFA president lobbied for votes at the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football at meeting in Miami. He arranged for Bin Hammam to visit Caribbean members of the organization a few days later after Bin Hammam, a Qatari, said his U.S. visa didn’t arrive on time. Blazer alleged that bundles of $40,000 were given to officials.
“I told Mr. Blatter in an e-mail that Mr. Bin Hammam doesn’t have a chance,” Warner said. “I told Mr. Blatter also that I would ask Mr. Bin Hammam to withdraw. I told him he has Concacaf support. Had we announced in Miami, Concacaf support for Mr. Blatter, all this would never have happened.”
Bin Hammam, 62, has denied claims he tried to buy votes. Warner said he wasn’t around when the money is said by witnesses to have changed hands at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain. Still, he said gift-giving has been part of FIFA culture during the near 30 years he’s been associated with the organization.
“It’s not unusual for such things to happen and gifts have been around throughout the history of FIFA,” Warner said. “What’s happening now for me is hypocrisy.”
‘History Will Judge’
During the last several months of Blatter’s third term, 10 of FIFA’s 24-member board were either sanctioned for, or faced allegations of, impropriety.
“At the end of the day I don’t want to be seen to be vengeful,” Warner said. “I am saying over time history will judge Mr. Blatter.”
The current crisis has spooked FIFA’s partners. Companies like Visa Inc. and Adidas AG (ADS), which contribute toward the $4 billion the organization generates from its World Cup, have called for FIFA to resolve problems that Coca-Cola Co. described as “distressing and bad.”
“If FIFA doesn’t go back to its moorings, football in the world as we know it today will never be the same again,” Warner said.
Warner said he’ll continue to assist with FIFA’s inquiry although wouldn’t meet with Freeh because he believed he was acting on behalf of Blazer and Concacaf lawyer John Collins. Collins drafted the original complaint against Warner and Bin Hammam. He said he felt hurt by Blazer’s actions.
“I don’t know who’s a friend and who’s a foe,” Warner said. “In retrospect possibly my friends, who I thought of as my friends, have been foes and possibly my foes have been friends. In fullness of time I’ll be able to see better who was foe and who was friend.”
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