CIFA meeting in emergency session

The executive committee of the Cayman Islands Football Association called an emergency meeting Monday night to discuss the future of the organization following the arrest Wednesday of its president and figurehead Jeff Webb on bribery charges in Switzerland. 

Bruce Blake, first vice president of the organization, said CIFA, which has so far remained silent on the allegations facing Webb, would have some public statement following that meeting. 

Webb has been suspended by world soccer governing body FIFA from “all football activities” and “provisionally dismissed” as president of regional governing body CONCACAF. 

Local football coaches have called for changes at CIFA while Cayman is facing increasing scrutiny worldwide following allegations last week of widespread corruption in world football’s governing body, centering on the Americas region. Cayman Finance, meanwhile, issued a short statement saying it was “saddened” by the allegations. 

With Webb being held by Swiss authorities, Mr. Blake cast a vote on behalf of Cayman football in the election in Zurich on Friday that resulted in the re-election of Sepp Blatter as head of FIFA. 

Mr. Blake declined to say Monday who he had voted for in the election and why. 

Blatter was re-elected after winning the first round of voting by 133-73, prompting his only opponent, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, to concede defeat. 

Each of the 209 member organizations of FIFA, from Montserrat with a population of 5,000, to five-time world champions Brazil, with a population of 200 million, gets one vote in the election. 

Mr. Blake, who was with a CIFA delegation that also included former sports minister Mark Scotland and former tourism minister Cline Glidden at the FIFA congress in Switzerland, returned to the island on Saturday. 

He said Monday night’s meeting was the first opportunity the executive committee had to discuss its response to the events that have put Cayman in the world spotlight. 

The committee of seven members, excluding Webb and Canover Watson, who was suspended as a member of CONCACAF’s audit and compliance committee because of a separate Cayman Islands-based corruption probe, is local football’s main decision-making body. 

They were meeting Monday night at the CIFA headquarters in Prospect. On Monday afternoon, as Webb’s arrest continued to make headlines around the world, CIFA’s website still carried a lead story on his re-election as president of CONCACAF and vice president of FIFA. 

Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden had no immediate comment on what, if anything, the government plans to do to make CIFA more transparent and accountable for the money it spends. The association, a nonprofit organization, is slated to receive $127,775 in public funds in government’s budget for the next financial year. 

Some football coaches locally rallied to support Mr. Webb, while others said a change at the top would be good for the local game. 

Ernie “Gillie” Seymour, whose Cayman Athletic side won the island’s FA Cup competition on Sunday, said, “Sometimes it is good if changes are made at an organization that serves the public.” 

Asked if the exposure was bad for Cayman football, he added, “I’m not so sure. If someone has really done something wrong and it is finally exposed, then it might be for the better. 

“If these guys prove themselves innocent in court, fine. I’m not going to say they are guilty or not because I don’t know. I wish them all the best.” 

Roy “Huta” Ebanks, technical director of West Bay’s Future sports club, said he hoped the arrests would be a “turning point” for the game. He said it would be difficult for the current CIFA leadership to continue to operate under the “cloud of suspicion” that stemmed from the events of last week. He said many of Cayman’s football leaders had done good things for the sport, but it was time for change. 

“Football needs to be reformed both locally and internationally from the top to the bottom,” he said. 

“Hopefully now all the stakeholders in football can come together for the betterment of future generations of footballers.” 

Elbert McLean, technical director of the Bodden Town Football Club, said, “This is sad for the country and for football in general. As the Bible says: ‘No sin goes unpunished’ but I’m praying and hoping that it’s not true.” 

Phillip Berry, a former Cayman Islands national team and Scholars International player, said the local scene had been neglected for too long. 

“Apart from one or two youth tournaments a year, there was nothing much being done at the local level,” he said. “There was a lot of neglect of our youth and senior football. It was always more lip service.” 

On a world football level, Mr. Berry added that “this will provide a check to see what is really going on.” 

Bruce Blake, first vice president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, casts the ballot of his association during voting to decide the organization’s presidency at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland. – Photo: Reuters/Ruben Sprich