More than two years after his arrest in Switzerland on bribery charges, former Cayman Islands Football Association president Jeffrey Webb still casts a long shadow over the sport in his homeland.
As members of the association prepare to meet Saturday to appoint his long-term successor, the candidates are still grappling with how to restore credibility and funding to the sport in the wake of Webb’s transgressions.
Government’s decision to pull its $130,000 annual grant has been among the most obvious consequences of the fallout from Webb’s arrest.
That stance will continue for at least the next two years, according to the 2018 and 2019 government budget, finalized Wednesday, which includes no money for the football association.
Lee Ramoon, a former national team captain, was elected to complete Webb’s term after the long-time president pleaded guilty to involvement in racketeering and bribery schemes at world football’s governing body, FIFA.
Mr. Ramoon insists significant progress has been made in the 18 months he has been in charge. Contenders Alfredo Whittaker, a senior match referee, and Renard Moxam, a businessman and former professional player in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s, argue that change has not been as swift or as sweeping as it should have been.
Mr. Ramoon was elected in a runoff against Mr. Whittaker at a special election last May. Presidents normally serve four-year terms, but Mr. Ramoon was essentially finishing the term for Webb and must face a new ballot at CIFA’s annual general meeting at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, Saturday.
Webb had been elected uncontested in every CIFA election for the previous 20 years, according to previous Cayman Compass reports.
This time Mr. Whittaker and Mr. Ramoon will reprise their closely contested 2016 battle, while Mr. Moxam, who was controversially blocked in an attempt to challenge former acting president Bruce Blake in 2015, has also thrown his hat into the ring.
Mr. Moxam said that despite significant changes on the CIFA executive committee, he was still concerned that the influence of a small coterie of officials on the game remained.
He said a completely new image was required to restore confidence and credibility to the game.
“We need to change our image, change our organization,” he said. “It is only when we get a new cadre of people running the sport that the public and private sector will feel comfortable supporting the game.”
Mr. Ramoon said he had brought much needed leadership to the sport. “We have moved on from that dark place where we were in terms of being transparent with the financial management practices. We are in a much better place than we were 16 months ago.”
He said members would be updated Saturday on the progress of a forensic audit examining CIFA’s accounts since 2009, as well as the accounts from the most recent financial year. He said treasurer Armando Ebanks had led a reform of the financial management practices and the association had met milestones set by FIFA which allowed it to access grant funding again from the governing body.
He believes government will follow suit and resume funding in the near future.
“We will definitely resolve that. I don’t think it is going to be long term – once we complete our forensic audit, we will sit down with government and talk about how we want to utilize the funds and come to an amicable solution.”
Mr. Whittaker said he had seen little sign of progress since the last election and was confident of a different result this time.
“I think the difference this time is that the clubs and the football fraternity in Cayman see that the president hasn’t been able to achieve anything to move the game forward,” he said. “We have had a couple of youth national teams go away and do well, but there is no structure, no leadership, no development. The clubs are in limbo.”
Both Mr. Whittaker and Mr. Moxam argued that the continued lack of government funding and the apparent difficulty in securing private sector sponsorship are symptomatic of a general lack of confidence in the current administration.
If elected, Mr. Moxam said he would put together a team to formulate a national development plan for the sport in terms of administrative, financial and technical policy, and then implement it. He said he would also look to develop a fundraising committee of honest and committed people to bring money back to the game.
“The lack of government money is another indicator of where the level of trust and confidence is right now,” he said. “You can have the most fantastic programs and ideas but if you don’t have money, you are just spinning your wheels.”
Alfredo Whittaker is of no relation to James Whittaker, the writer of this story.