Warner and his ‘exploits’

Sepp Blatter (left) with his “wonderful and loyal friend,” Jack Warner at a press conference in connection with the FIFA U-20 World Cup.-AP Sepp Blatter (left) with his “wonderful and loyal friend,” Jack Warner at a press conference in connection with the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Jack Warner, kingpin of CONCACAF and Trinidad football, has been able to obtain whatever he chose from FIFA, with the current President, Sepp Blatter, seemingly content to turn a blind eye to any of his adventures.

Hard to comprehend why the ever-controversial and shameless Jack Warner should have lashed out, as he recently did, against English football, and the vague prospects that the World Cup may come back to England in distant 2018.

‘Teflon’ Jack, Kingpin of CONCACAF and Trinidad football, might, you would think, have kept his head well below the parapet after the scandal of the 2006 World Cup Trinidad ticket allowance. Yet, his tirade against English football reached heights of hot air. “Nobody in Europe likes England,” he ranted. “England, who invented the sport, have never had any impact upon world football. England at no time has the love and support of Europe. Europe considers England an irritant.”

All this from a Trinidadian whose remit has nothing to do with European football at all, who conveniently ignores the fact that England won the World Cup in 1966 and, through Manchester United, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, have won the European Cup many a time.

What is so sadly surprising is that Warner, through the years, has been able not only to survive a host of what one might politely term controversies, but that, again and again, he has been able to obtain whatever he chose from FIFA, with the current President, Sepp Blatter, seemingly content to turn a blind eye to any of Warner’s adventures.

True, he was able to wriggle off the hook over the latest ticket scandal, when an estimated $1 million worth of Trinidad’s allocation was hijacked by a company called Simpaul Travel, owned by Warner, his wife and his sons, Daryan and Darryl.

Far away in Europe, the newspaper ‘Berliner Zeitung’ published an article under the headline, ‘Jackpot for Jack the Ripper’. Not so, Warner contested, braying, “This thing is of no interest to me, no value to me, I want to move ahead.” Which, in a sense, he did, since it transpired that it had been son Darryl who was responsible for the scam, and he it was who was ultimately impugned by FIFA who, in bizarre attempted secrecy, fined him and his company the million bucks involved, saying that when duly received they would be paid to charity.

Overall, however, Warner, with his control of the CONCACAF 35 FIFA votes, has largely been able to get what he wants from FIFA; as revealed in stark and damning detail by the investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, whom Warner insults whenever their paths cross. Not least in the matter of the grandiosely named Dr. Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence, situated between the Trinidad airport and Port of Spain. A 6000-seat soccer stadium, three training fields, swimming pool, offices, conference hall and the so-called Sportel Inn, with 50 bedrooms to accommodate visiting worthies.

But why in the world should it have been built in marginal Trinidad when it would have so much more sensibly and centrally been built in Jamaica or Cuba? Answers on a postcard, please? But not only did Warner get his own way over location; he also extracted from FIFA $10 million being the whole of the three-year budget for the region. Nor was this enough, since Warner duly returned to FIFA with his hand out, demanding a $6 million loan. Of course he got it, but did he ever pay it back? In the event, Blatter and Grondona, the Argentine then running FIFA finances, waived the debt!

Then what of the 2001 under-17 world championship, which Warner managed to have allocated to Trinidad? A huge honey pot for Warner and his local supporters. In May 2004, three of them, as it happens, would be arrested and charged with corruption over the building of a new airport at Piarco.

“I make no apologies for doing what I did for us to win the bid,” declared Warner, somewhat suggestively. He himself was deputy chairman of FIFA’s finance committee. In Trinidad, the local Contractors’ Association complained to the Prime Minister about the spending of 340 million Trinidad dollars, insisting that tendering laws were being violated. Warner would not respond.

And when the tournament ensued, the Australian Manager, Les Avory, was incensed by the shoddy hotel accommodation; dirty tiling, some rooms without hot water, missing showerheads, toilets which didn’t flush. “I got hold of Warner,” said Avory, “but he refused to move us. He said, ‘I’ve paid $59,000 in advance!’”

Sepp Blatter was supportive. “Jack Warner is a wonderful and loyal friend,” he enthused. “He is very competent.” In Port of Spain, Jennings bearded a deeply embarrassed Blatter with questions about the contracts Warner had obtained for himself and his family, but Blatter hummed and hahed. As for Les Avory’s Aussies, they found themselves condemned to play in the torrid heat of the lunch hour and given a mere 41-hour break when they should have had 72.

In Trinidad, the government changed, no longer friendly to Warner, knocking on the head his demand that Trinidad should stage another youth tournament for a mere 30 million Trinidad dollars. The new officials were anxious to know why so much money had seemingly been spent on the actual tournament, with Warner claiming to FIFA that there was a deficit of no less than $1,529,723.

Perhaps to be attacked as England have been by Warner is a kind of left-handed compliment. But why, having been re-elected, does Blatter need him now?