When Jack Warner walked away from football in the summer of 2011 he left a cloud of angry hot air behind him, breathed by critics furious that he had not faced up to charges arising out of bribery allegations in the FIFA presidential election.
It was not as if Warner had been a minor administrator. He had been a vic-president of FIFA, president of CONCACAF (Caribbean, Central and North America) for 11 years, president of the Caribbean Football Union and controller of football in Trinidad & Tobago. On top of that Warner was a senior government minister.
However, weekend reports from Port of Spain indicate that the fall-out from Warner’s long reign continues to excite attention. A governmental ‘Integrity Commission’ is delving into Warner’s involvement in the financial scandal surrounding Trinidad’s appearance at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.
Half of the players in the national team squad have long been pursuing Warner and his acolytes through the courts to try to secure the bonuses they were promised. The issue has bounced between courts in Trinidad and London and produced all sorts of orders against Warner, other officials and former officials and the TTFA, without any serious sign of a resolution.
Within FIFA Warner had been a long-time loyalist supporting president Sepp Blatter. He was, in effect, allowed to run CONCACAF as he wished – with the financially astute support of fellow FIFA exco member Chuck Blazer as general secretary – in return for providing his 30-plus votes whenever Blatter needed them.
However, the deal-breaker was a clear signal in the spring of 2011 that Warner was shifting his support behind Mohamed bin Hammam, Blatter’s presidential challenger. Warner organised a conference in Port of Spain in the May for Bin Hammam to put his case to the CFU membership.
This was the infamous meeting at which each delegation was offered $40,000 in cash to cover attendance expenses. That prompted a FIFA ethics inquiry which led to the suspensions of both Warner and Bin Hammam and subsequently both were charged with ethics code breaches.
Warner simply walked away from football – “without a stain on character,” as FIFA put it – while Bin Hammam was found guilty and banned for life. Bin Hammam ultimately had the ban quashed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and now faces new charges for alleged misuse of Asian Confederation funds.
In the meantime Warner filled his time with his duties as, first, Minister of Works back in Trinidad and now Security Minister. He also stands in occasionally as acting prime minister when Kamla Persad-Bissessar is out of the country.
Warner, now, never leaves the country and almost never talks in public about football, apart from the occasional derisory remark about Blatter and FIFA.
But this was not the end of it.
In July and again in September the activist group Fixin T&T raised a complaint with the Integrity Commission about Warner’s role in the 2006 World Cup financial scandal. Warner has acknowledged a number of administrative omissions from previously-submitted documentation.
This appears to go to the heart of the matters because one concerned full disclosure of personal and family finances – and Warner’s family had directorial interests in 2006 World Cup travel and ticketing operations in Trinidad. Also, TTFA received $180m in financial support from the government to support the 2006 World Cup effort, monies which have never been properly accounted.
According to local media, Fixin T&T wants “a full investigation into Minister Warner, relative to alleged breaches of the Integrity in Public Life Act” and wants the Commission to “request from all banks in Trinidad and Tobago, information on any and all accounts to which Minister Warner was and remains a signatory so that a forensic audit can be conducted.”
Warner has claimed that this is merely an attempty at political point-scoring by his opponents.
Meanwhile, halfway across the world, Warner’s old FIFA exco colleague Bin Hammam is entering a crucial week. The AFC’s executive committee is to pore over issues arising from the saga including whether they can hold an election to replace the Qatari, formally, as president.
FIFA leaders, meanwhile, will be down in Brazil for all the events surrounding Saturday’s draw in Sao Paulo for next year’s Confederations Cup.
But expect the Warner/Bin Hammam saga to keep on running . . .