Caribbean crossroads. Are football’s political elite creating a ‘new Warner’ for their own use?

By Paul Nicholson

July 1 – Controversial Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president, David John-Williams, has officially declared his candidacy for the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) presidency, amid claims that he has misused TTFA funds to finance his campaign and that he has been given significant political backing from CONCACAF and FIFA in return for his support of their new presidents Victor Montagliani (pictured) and Gianni Infantino.

The move prompted one Caribbean football insider who requested anonymity to say: “What is going on in the Caribbean with the current FIFA and TTFA president has the makings to lead to the creation of another Jack Warner; who wasn’t created in a vacuum but rather nurtured and protected by Zurich for the purpose of delivering a potent amount of votes.”

John-Williams will be up against current CFU president Gordon Derrick from Antigua and Barbuda and United States Virgin Islands (USVI) president Hillaren Frederick.

He had already told member associations he was going to run for the presidency at a gathering in Trinidad in June ostensibly to discuss the opportunity for a Caribbean Professional League, but a meeting whose subtext was to gather support for his election bid.

That meeting was financed by CONCACAF on the say-so of its new president Victor Montagliani. FIFA were also present at the meeting but could not confirm that they had provided funding but were keen to impress that they were only there as observers and represented by their newly formed professional football department.

UEFA is also said to have contributed to the meeting costs though that has been denied by UEFA who have said they would be granting no financial aid, nor had an ambition to be involved in Caribbean football politics.

Excluded from the Trinidad meeting was any formal representation from the CFU with neither CFU president Gordon Derrick or general secretary Neil Cochrane invited. An extraordinary omission in light of the fact that the CFU controls all the intra-Caribbean competition and are the region’s governing body as recognised by FIFA and CONCACAF. It also has an aggressive football development and competition plan it is trying to fulfil on a limited budget.

Indeed, FIFA president Infantino on May 12 at the FIFA Congress in Mexico City had emphasised how important the regional sub-confederations were in the governance and organisation of world football and had promised them direct financial assistance of $1 million annually. A promise that looks painfully hollow and duplicitous in the Caribbean.

Trinidad website Wired868 has reported that when Derrick asked CONCACAF why it had supported the meeting financially when this was effectively a CFU project, and why it had handed that project over to an individual member, Montagliani had replied: “CONCACAF has a fiduciary responsibility to consider any proposal or request of any member association and, in fulfilment of our obligation, we considered the request… Our only condition to providing support was that all 31 Member Associations in the Caribbean be invited to participate—this belies your accusation of  divisiveness and favouritism.

“CONCACAF will continue to support football activities of any Member Association upon request, assuming the request is reasonable, financially sustainable and within our authority… In fact, supporting this effort is what we are supposed to do.”

It is an interesting interpretation of what Montagliani believes football’s governing bodies “are supposed to do” in that in doing so he has deliberately excluded the CFU from the discussion. The comment has only fuelled the growing feeling in the Caribbean that CONCACAF’s north American overlords believe they can do anything they want, and with John-Williams in place it would neuter any Caribbean opposition to their management.

John-Williams will be up against Derrick and United States Virgin Islands (USVI) president Hillaren Frederick in the presidential elections on July 23 in Miami.

In May Derrick was initially standing against Montagliani in the CONCACAF presidential election before he was ruled out in not fully explained circumstances by FIFA’s audit and compliance chief Domenico Scala. Montagliani picked up a significant number of CFU votes following Derrick’s forced withdrawal. It is those votes that are now being pushed towards John-Williams by CONCACAF’s mandarins.

In the meantime talk of a professional Caribbean Football League appears to have served its political usefulness and been pushed to the backburner.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1685362315labto1685362315ofdlr1685362315owedi1685362315sni@n1685362315osloh1685362315cin.l1685362315uap1685362315