Hans-Joachim Eckert, FIFA’s German ethics judge, tidied away one of the most glaring loose ends left over from earlier crises at the world football federation.
The adjudicatory chamber of the ethics committee, which he heads, has imposed a lifetime suspension on Trinidad’s Jack Warner, former president of the central and north American confederation when he was also a vice-president of FIFA.
Eckert’s move was being considered by legal sources as a necessary preliminary step before the ethics chamber could move forward to consider whether any action should be taken against FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA leader Michel Platini after events of last Friday.
Blatter and Platini were both interrogated after the conclusion of an executive committee meeting in connection with allegations in a criminal investigation initiated against Blatter by the Office of the Swiss Attorney-General.
For years Warner was one of the most powerful wheeler-dealers in world football but has since been assailed by allegations of benefiting personally from massive and systematic misuse of funds (all of which he has denied).
Warner walked away from football and all his positions in the game in the summer of 2011 after being caught out finally in the cash-for-votes scandal which wrecked a presidential bid from Qatar’s Asian football boss Mohamed bin Hammam.
Those were days before the current, strengthened ethics system had been created and disciplinary rules lacked punishment options in such circumstances.
Subsequently Warner threw all his energies into his political career in Trinidad and Tobago. He rose to the position of Security Minister and was occasionally stand-in Prime Minister during the absences of Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Warner lost his seat in the recent General Election.
He is currently contested an extradition application from the United States Department of Justice in the FIFAGate corruption scandal.
Warner, ever since his high-speed exit from football, has threatened to unleash a ‘tsunami’ of allegations and accusations against FIFA in general and Blatter in particular.
Today the adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee, chaired by Hans-Joachim Eckert, announced it had decided to ban Warner “from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level for life.”
Significantly, the evidence was garnered from the investigation undertaken by the ethics chamber into the scandal-hit 2018-2022 World Cup bidding process.
A statement said: “The chairman of the investigatory chamber, Dr Cornel Borbély, who took over the chairmanship from [Michael Garcia] in late December 2014, immediately opened the investigation into Mr Warner’s activities in January 2015.”
It added, trenchantly: “Mr Warner was found to have committed many and various acts of misconduct continuously and repeatedly during his time as an official in different high-ranking and influential positions at FIFA and CONCACAF.
“In his positions as a football official, he was a key player in schemes involving the offer, acceptance, and receipt of undisclosed and illegal payments, as well as other money-making schemes.”
The statement quoted the various Code of Ethics articles under which Warner was being punished including concerns over general conduct, conflicts of interest and the “offering and accepting gifts and other benefits.”
Warner, in a brief derisory comment on the decision and the process, suggested that it was a mere smokescreen designed to try to deflect attention from the crisis assailing Blatter and Platini.
He said: “Given what is happening in Zurich with Blatter I wish to say there is no such thing as coincidence. I left the FIFA in April 2011 and if, in September 2015, FIFA wants to ban me for life without even a hearing then so be it.
“I do not believe however that this will serve as the distraction to FIFA’s present problems as FIFA wishes it to be.”