Honeymoon over

As honeymoons go, it didn’t last long. New CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb barely had the time to bask in the moment of his election before he was plunged into a fresh crisis over the misuse of funds by his predecessor, Jack Warner, and the confederation’s former general secretary, Chuck Blazer.

The list of financial mismanagement allegations against Warner and fellow CONCACAF representative, Blazer, was outlined to delegates just minutes after they elected Webb as their new president.

Warner has already gone, banished from football for life for his alleged misdemeanours, but Blazer remains in situ – for the time being at least.

Officials from the region turned on Blazer, and voted to seek his removal from FIFA’s executive committee after 16 years. An appeal to this effect will be made to the full FIFA Congress on Friday.

Bitterness and acrimony permeated the air in Budapest as delegates took it in turns to heap opprobrium on Blazer and Warner.

“There are robbers with guns and there are robbers with white collars — and I don’t want us to be represented by a thief with a white collar in FIFA,” Cuba football president Luis Hernandez said of the pair.

Perhaps sensing the prevailing mood, Blazer, citing illness, wisely did not attend the meeting.

Had he been present he would have told of a litany of accounting failures that came to light following a complete audit of CONCACAF’s finances. Among the unexplained items was a $22.5 million centre of excellence built by FIFA funds in Trinidad & Tobago, but now registered to companies owned by Warner’s family. Similarly  Blazer’s 10 per cent commissions on television and sponsorship deals, paid to an offshore company called Sportvertising, helped push CONCACAF’s staff costs to $9 million from income of $38 million last year.

On hearing of the contents of the report, Webb spoke on behalf of the confederation.

“We feel let down, disappointed, dismayed,” Webb said, and added: “Too often, improper decisions were made by individuals with their own agenda.”

While Sepp Blatter assured FIFA delegates: “The credibility of CONCACAF is back,” the irony, is that many of those lining up to put the boot into Blazer and Warner, have themselves served suspension for various misdemeanours.

Quote of the day

“This indicates that they are skillfully corrupt people because the no-bid process allowed them to increase expenditures and benefit from large-scale kickback schemes.”

No, not another tale of Jack Warner’s creative accounting skills, but a comment on the way in which Ukraine’s hosting of Euro 2012 has provided a boon for the country’s more corrupt elements. The quote comes from a fascinating article detailing how the tournament may end up being an expensive burden upon an already-impoverished country.

Goal of the day

Nashat Akram scored with an improvised long range lob against Sierra Leone

Banning’s too good for him

QPR captain Joey Barton has been issued with a 12-match ban after being found guilty of two counts of violent. conduct.

It’s a harsh sentence, significantly longer than eight-match ban Luis Suarez received for racially abusing Patrice Evra and longer than the 11-match suspension meted out to Paolo Di Canio after he pushed over referee Paul Alcock. The ban is one of the longest issued by the FA, and reflects less the severity of this particular misdemeanour, and more on the fact that Barton, for all his attempts to portray himself as renaissance man, is actually a habitual re-offender.

The chairman of the regulatory commission stated after the hearing: “There are rules of conduct that should be adhered to, and such behaviour tarnishes the image of football in this country, particularly as this match was the pinnacle of the domestic season and watched by millions around the globe.”

A bizarre statement. Surely the severity of the punishment should not be determined by the significance of the match, nor the size of the television audience.

So, QPR are stuck with a well-renumerated player on the pay roll who can neither play nor, given his reputation and lengthy suspension, be sold. A clearer case of lose-lose it would be hard to find.

However, one suspects that for Rangers, the suspension itself is not their main concern; when he’s served it and is available for selection again, that’s when their real problems will begin.

More than a club

Everybody’s favourite second team, Barcelona have been doing their bit to raise literacy levels in Africa.

The Catalan side  has teamed up with Worldreader, a non-profit organization granting access to books and increasing literacy in developing countries. This particular campaign is focusing on sending 1 million e-books to students in the Sub-Saharan Africa. A donation of (only) $5 brings another e-book to students, so let’s make sure we all make a contribution to this great cause.

Barcelona get more than 500 requests a week from charitable organisations asking for assistance, so the fact that they agreed to help the Worldreader campaign indicates it is a worthy cause.

Plus ca change

New coach, new look squad, new style of play? Not according to France boss, Laurent Blanc, who was asked about the way England will play under new manager Roy Hodgson.

France have been drawn alongside England in Group D for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine, and will meet on June 11 in Donetsk.

“We know him (Hodgson) well from the campaign with Fulham to the Europa League final,” Blanc told The Times.

“We know his system, his philosophy. We know he has a preference for 4-4-2, but it’s different from club to country. We’ll have to watch those friendly games to see how he’s going to line up.

“But I’ve seen the squad. I know them all. England will be a tough opponent, but I don’t think there will be big surprises.”

What a waste of money

Bebe, whose entire football career looks in danger of becoming a mildly diverting footnote to one of the more bizarre transfer deals in living memory, has ended his loan spell with Besiktas and returned to Manchester United, where…. well, who knows.

The Portuguese winger was a virtual unknown when he joined United in a £7.4m transfer from Vitoria Guimaraes in August 2010. Indeed, having represented his country at the Homeless World Cup, he was not so much a household name as a man in search of a house. Any house.

Doubtless Sir Alex Ferguson can call in a few favours and set up another loan deal, ideally overseas, preferably away from the intrusive gaze of the British press, who for all their obeisance to the wily old fox, can still smell a rat.

An early season cruciate ligament injury halted Bebe’s season at Besiktas, and when he eventually recovered he was banished to train away from the first-team after allegedly breaking a curfew.

United would prefer to sell him the 21-year-old should they receive a suitable offer. Their definition of ‘suitable’ is surprisingly broad: they’d even take Greek euros so desperate are they to see the back of a him.

Communication breakdown

Nicolas Anelka has denied saying he was on the verge of walking out over plans over to hire a new manager.

Apparently, it was all a communication breakdown.

His retraction comes after Shenhua’s owner, video-game magnate Zhu Jun, reportedly demanded threatened to fine him.

Anelka said: “This matter is perhaps caused by problems in some aspects of communication.”

Opening your mouth being the main one, Nicolas.

Pep talk

Johan Cruyff has claimed that Pep Guardiola lost the support of the club’s board when Sandro Rosell became president.

“Guardiola almost made perfect decisions, and he had the support of club’s higher-ups to protect him,” he told El Periodico. “After the elections, that was all gone.”

It should be noted that the Dutchman is not a disinterested observer here, having had a running feud with Rosell since he ousted former president and Cruyff ally, Joan Laporta, in 2010.

The 41-year-old coach, the most successful in the club’s history with 13 major honors in a four-year spell, will leave Camp Nou after Friday’s Spanish Cup final against Athletic Bilbao to take a sabbatical from football.

Cruyff believes that it is the end of an era for the club.

“With Guardiola’s exit, a cycle ends, because he was the one who had all the control,” he continued. “It would be nice if he could end this cycle by winning the Copa del Rey.”

Room 101

With just two years to go until Brazil hosts the World Cup, the country’s infrastructure improvements are running behind schedule. Twas ever thus; indeed the surprise is, that a schedule even existed. The assumption, based on the erratic progress over the past few years was of an ad hoc approach, punctuated by increasingly tense meetings with FIFA officials anxious about the slow rate of progress.

Brazil plans to spend $13 billion on 101 projects to build or modernize stadiums, and improve public infrastructure ahead of the 2014 finals, but work has begun on only 60 of them, the government has confirmed.

“We are not working on the possibility or the assumption of a delay. We have an eye on the current state of the projects and another on their completion,” said Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, whose laid back approach makes him sound like a calm head in a crisis, though possibly not the person best equipped to deliver a successful World Cup in two years time. We shall see.

“The projects are on schedule. We expect the Confederations Cup will take place in the six planned arenas.”

The concern, though, is not the stadiums but the practicalities of transporting millions of visitors around the vast country.

As of April, only 28 of the 51 planned transport projects had begun. Bidding for seven others is under way and concessions for nine are in the process of being awarded.

Work has begun on only 13 of the 31 planned projects to upgrade airports.

Again, though, Rebelo remains sanguine about the situation.

“The government is optimistic and confident about overcoming all the challenges,” he said.

Crisis, what crisis?