By Paul Nicholson in Mexico City
May 13 – After a five-month wait CONCACAF at last has a new president. Canadian FA chief Victor Montagliani won the presidential election in Mexico City at CONCACAF’s Congress. Montagliani takes over world football’s most dangerous post, though the presidency of CONMEBOL would run it close.
Montagliani beat Bermuda’s Larry Mussenden 25-16, splitting the Caribbean vote in an election that was mired in controversy with the dubiously ‘ethical’ prevention of Caribbean Football Union president Gordon Derrick from standing (FIFA failed his integrity test), and allegations that the CONCACAF executive had prevented candidates campaigning on a level playing field.
That Derrick decision will now go before the Court of Arbitration for Sport and could potentially discredit not only CONCACAF and its US-driven reform agenda, but also FIFA’s own audit and compliance processes via its potential interference in the outcome of the election.
For his part Montagliani gave all the right sounding answers at the press conference post Congress (press were not allowed to attend this Congress).
“The cleaning up will not happen in a couple of days,” said Montagliani. “In a year we will have a CONCACAF to be proud of.” So what else needs cleaning up and what has really been happening since former president Jeffrey Webb was arrested in May 2015 and former president Alfredo Hawit was arrested in December 2016? Wasn’t the cleaning up what was taking place over the past 12 months?
In fairness a lot has happened but Montagliani seems to be implying that he isn’t starting with a ‘clean’ slate and spoke of the work to be done on the implementation of the reforms through member associations.
Montagliani will take on the role of president full time though will not move to the Miami headquarters to run the confederation, saying that “each member is my focus”.
CONCACAF has 41 members and Montagliani said that “for the first time there is a breakdown of the walls, especially between the unions. It is the first time we have come together as one confederation.”
One of the early areas where he will need to find consensus is who, if anyone, the confederation will support as their preferred country in the race to host the 2026 World Cup. 2026 was always reckoned to be going to the CONCACAF region, and to the US. But with Mexico and Canada now both saying they want to host, Montagliani spoke of “getting everyone round a table and finding a collaborative strategy”.
That could perhaps mean a three-country bid, which would be a FIFA first but might not be such a bad idea if FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s plans for expansion of the World Cup to 40 teams comes to fruition.
Asked about whether there would be increased competition co-operation with CONMEBOL, like the Copa America Centenario taking place this summer in the US, Montagliani poured cold water on it becoming a regular occurrence.
“The Gold Cup is our tournament and for me it is the most important event in the confederation. Our priorities are all about the Gold Cup,” he said. Moving the number of teams in the competition from 12 to 16 he said was important for member development, but he did say that they would look at whether it made more sense to make the cycle every four years rather than every two.
As well as the election of Montagliani to president, Rodolfo Villalobos of Costa Rica was elected to the CONCACAF Council as a Vice-President.
In other votes Luis Hernandez of Cuba (CF), Pedro Chaluja of Panama (UNCAF), and Sonia Bien-Aime of Turks and Caicos (female rep) were chosen to represent the confederation on the FIFA Council.
On the election for president itself Montagliani said: “It is a democracy. My opponent brought out the best in me in terms of the campaign. Football is a team game, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”
The Caribbean federations are now wondering if this new democracy is a democracy where some people are more equal than others. Montagliani has a long way to go to win their true trust which is a lot more than a vote on a piece of paper. And that will be the true test of his presidency and who is really running this confederation.
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