By Paul Nicholson
June 10 – A fresh row has broken out in the Caribbean over what is being interpreted by national associations as back-door interference in the region’s affairs by regional confederation CONCACAF. The moves further undermine the management of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) and its executive at a time when it has already seen its power base at the region’s top political table eroded and its membership split and marginalised.
The controversy broke out following an invitation by Trinidad and Tobago president David John Williams to presidents of CFU member federations to attend a two-day meeting June 17-18 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to discuss new developments and a pathway to the establishment of a Caribbean professional league.
The letter stated that all economy travel and hotel costs were being paid by CONCACAF with support from UEFA.
The meeting was being organised outside the governance of the CFU and without its knowledge or involvement. Insideworldfootball has learned that the funding was granted without the approval of the CONCACAF council.
The CFU and many of the Caribbean presidents have responded furiously at the move to circumvent the CFU structure in its own region, with some members saying that the professional league conversation is just a smokescreen for Williams to announce his candidacy for the CFU presidency, backed by the CONCACAF executive. The CFU election is less than two months away.
Victor Montagliani (pictured), newly elected president of CONCACAF, told Insideworldfootball: “This meeting is an initiative of an MA that is obviously our member and for the entire region (all 31 invited) not a select few.
“The topic is of importance to not only the Caribbean but CONCACAF and FIFA.
“We support and as we move forward there will be a more detailed approach by CONCACAF but as an initial initiative this is a first step,” he said.
“The amount has been budgeted from our budget for member support and is not a directive from myself even though I support it.
“In the end CONCACAF is committed to an inclusive process with all our MAs of getting the Caribbean league to a reality.”
While CONCACAF is including all its Caribbean members with this support, it appears to be deliberately excluding the CFU, its officially recognised sub-regional association that organises all the region’s cross border competition. FIFA most recently announced that it would increasingly work with the sub-regional bodies at its Congress in Mexico City, and announced a package of financial support for those sub-regional bodies.
When the CFU questioned CONCACAF assistant general secretary Ted Howard he responded that Williams had approached them having had support funding already agreed by UEFA. As a result CONCACAF agreed funding from their resources as well but, he said, “we are not involved”.
However, high level sources at UEFA confirmed they had made “no such commitment” to Williams and that they had no intention of providing any finance due to what they interpreted as the potentially political nature of the meeting.
A professional Caribbean league has long been an ambition in the region which loses its best players, most often to Europe and the US. A concrete proposal and backing for a professional league would be a compelling vote winner in the region – though making it conditional on electing the ‘right’ president would be pushing the boundaries of governance very close to election-rigging.
CONCACAF, under Jeffrey Webb’s presidency, had established a heavyweight committee to look into the how a professional league could be established and funded in the Caribbean, but the work of that committee appears to have dried up. Williams was a member.
The concern being voiced by Caribbean members and some members of CONCACAF’s own council is that any support is being provided outside the agreed governance principles, and potentially for a political gain that would suit Williams. The financial support that has been granted was done so without the backing or knowledge of all the members of the CONCACAF council.
There is a further conflict of interest for Williams who owns one of Trinidad’s leading clubs and stands to benefit from a professional Caribbean league
Whichever way these issue now play out, it is clear that forces outside the Caribbean want to see a further dismantling of its previously strong political powerbase.
Three senior CONCACAF Council members have separately told Insideworldfootball that they want to see a change engineered at the top of the CFU and that their feeling was that president Gordon Derrick from Antigua had to be removed. He was already controversially excluded from the election for CONCACAF’s presidency in extremely dubious circumstances by FIFA with the suspicion that CONCACAF persuaded FIFA to do their dirty work for them.
One thing is certain, piracy in the Caribbean is alive and manipulating. The problem it seems that not all the pirates are wearing pirates clothing.
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