Soccer bosses vote for reform ahead of election

Leaders of regional soccer federation CONCACAF, including Cayman’s Bruce Blake, met in Switzerland on Thursday to approve a series of reforms that the organization hopes will put an era of corruption and excess behind it.

The changes, intended to bring transparency and accountability to the finances of the crisis-hit federation, were approved as the game’s leaders huddled in Zurich ahead of Friday’s vote for a new president of world football.

Swiss lawyer Gianni Infantino and Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, a member of the Bahrain royal family, are the leading contenders to replace disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter in an election seen as crucial to the future of the sport.

Neither man can count on the support of CONCACAF, traditionally a powerful bloc-vote in such contests.

The governing body for soccer in Central and North America and the Caribbean announced Thursday it would not be publicly endorsing any of the five candidates.

Cayman Islands Football Association acting president Mr. Blake, who is expected to cast a vote on behalf of the association, did not return calls or emails this week.

CONCACAF announced in a press statement Thursday that its leaders had unanimously voted to approve reforms that it said “fundamentally changed the governance structure of football in the region and set new standards for accountability and transparency within international sports organizations.”

The changes include new powers for CONCACAF’s membership to review and approve salary and benefits packages for its president and council members.

Bloomberg Business, in an article published this week, revealed that former president Jeffrey Webb had pulled in $2 million in compensation from CONCACAF in 2014, as well as billing the organization for excessive travel and entertaining expenses.

CONCACAF’s statement did not reference Webb, one of three of the federation’s presidents arrested on corruption charges. In total, 12 CONCACAF officials are among the 39 people charged in the U.S. federal corruption probe.

Samir Ghandi, a legal adviser appointed by CONCACAF to help clean up the organization in the wake of the scandal, said the reforms announced Thursday were critical.

He said the goal was “to make sure that the organization doesn’t operate in a way that others can use for their own financial gain, fraud or criminality.”

“It is critical to restore faith in the sport and those who administer it,” he said. “I hope that we will be a model for others to follow and strive to live up to, not just in football, but in other sports as well. The priority is to fix our ship.”

An official statement from CONCACAF, said, “The reforms passed today go further than ever before to incorporate essential principles of good governance and compliance into CONCACAF’s statutes. However, it is only the beginning of the equally important process of changing the culture of how football is governed and administered by implementing these reforms in a meaningful and sustainable way.”

The changes also include maximum term limits for executive council members, integrity checks for presidential candidates and new powers to audit member associations.

It is not clear whether similar changes will be introduced by the Cayman Islands Football Association. CIFA has not announced when it will hold its meeting to vote for a permanent replacement for Webb.

Renard Moxam, who is still seeking to lead CIFA, said he was pleased to see some of the reforms brought through at a regional level. But he said without changes to the personnel in charge, he was skeptical about how effective the reforms would be.

“If the personalities that have been there through the years and stood on the sidelines and watched while this corruption has taken place are still there then it makes me believe this is just a gesture towards change. We need a clean sweep of everybody involved at all levels of the game, internationally and locally. While some of the reforms are welcome I think it is more important that the right people are there to execute them.”