By Paul Nicholson
April 19 – Larry Mussenden, one of the last two standing candidates in the election to the presidency of CONCACAF, has launched his election manifesto promising to chase down the $190 million of corruption cash collected by the US justice department, to push for a Caribbean professional league and to get back the Trinidad training centre from Jack Warner,
Under the banner “It’s out time to move forward together’, Mussenden covers a lot of ground in a manifesto in which he says he “will stand for Governance, Development and Achievement. I will be unrelenting in my promotion of these most important principles.”
Mussenden is head of the Bermuda Football Association and chairman of the FIFA and CONCACAF appeal committee. In public life he has been a government senator, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice as well as having his own private legal practice. In March he was appointed Bermuda’s Director of Public Prosecutions.
One of his first acts if elected president would be to get ensure CONCACAF gets its fair share of the $190 million+ collected by the US Department of Justice which he says should be shared as follows: 30% to CONCACAF; 20% to the Unions, based on demonstrated need; and 50% be divided equally amongst CONCACAF’s Member Associations.
Mussenden doesn’t put a figure on how much can be collected or a timescale, but he does recognise in his manifesto a need to reinstate CONCACAF programmes which have been shut down or reduced under the current operational procedure which, at peak, has seen outside US legal and management consultants take up to $1.4 million a month out of the confederation’s budget – revenue projections for the past year are just $25 million. Mussenden says that the CONCACAF reserve fund would need to be activated.
He says he would also “commence litigation to recover the Centre of Excellence in Trinidad and Tobago”.
The training centre has often been the elephant in the room in Caribbean circles with Warner currently its registered owner, his argument being that it was gifted to him as an individual. This has been disputed and various attempts have been made to wrestle the training centre back by negotiation, all to no avail.
Mussenden says he would go straight to law to go win back the centre and would “use the facility as follows: As a prime leased facility in order to obtain revenue for CONCACAF; as headquarters for the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association; as a regional training centre for use by CONCACAF Member Associations with guaranteed annual free/discounted usage per country; for regional tournaments.”
Like all candidates in this election, and in the election for FIFA president previously, Mussenden champions the need for a professional league in the Caribbean, saying that he would work with the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) leadership to develop a sustainable competition for the region.
It is the Caribbean, with its majority vote, who will likely decide the outcome of the presidency race between Mussenden and Canada’s Victor Montagliani, the preferred candidate of the North American associations and particularly the US.
The favourite for the election was CFU president Gordon Derrick who was barred from running last week for failing an integrity check carried out by CONCACAF’s hired-in US law firm Sidley Austin and referred to FIFA. The circumstances around this integrity check are both unclear and uncomfortable and on the face of the evidence seen so far look suspiciously like politicking in the US interest.
Mussenden, could be the big beneficiary of this when it comes to the May 12 election, as the Caribbean vote that was solidly behind Derrick could switch to supporting him. His manifesto certainly makes strong overtures to the Caribbean membership and promises to include the CFU in his decision making.
Within the Caribbean, Mussenden is generally seen as being slightly outside the regional mainstream, having never held major CFU position and having been slightly aloof from their activities, presumably due to his other commitments. Indeed, paperwork has reportedly been done that would see the Bermuda FA shift its sub-regional political affiliation to the North American block, though Bermuda would still play in Caribbean competitions.
However, now Mussenden is clearly lobbying hard for Caribbean favour and looks like the candidate most likely to win their support with a set of promises that also include the reinstatement of a number of development programmes that would have direct impact on the CFU members including; reinstatement of the U15 Boys and Girls development tournaments, development of pitch infrastructure in each country, and reinvogorated referee and coach development programmes.
The Caribbean may have had their man – Gordon Derrick – removed from the game, but they may not be out of the CONCACAF power play completely if Mussenden can follow through on his pledges.
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