There are few things in sport that capture the imagination like a comeback.
Just over 18 months ago, Alfredo Whittaker lost the CIFA presidential election by a single vote. On Saturday he won by the same slender margin, guaranteeing him a four-year opportunity to revive the ailing fortunes of a sport that had been mired in controversy and financial difficulties.
Mr. Whittaker’s first aim is to switch the focus back from the off-field transgressions of a handful of officials, to the area that matters most – progress on the pitch.
He said getting national youth leagues up and running by January would be the top item on his agenda as well as ensuring the Under-20 national team is prepared for World Cup qualifiers next year.
The veteran referee said he would also look to speed up progress on a forensic audit of the association’s finances dating back to 2009, as CIFA looks to get to grips with a credibility crisis in the wake of the arrests of its former president, treasurer and vice president in three separate corruption investigations.
Long-time president Jeff Webb was banned for life from CIFA after pleading guilty to his role in a worldwide bribery and racketeering scandal. Canover Watson, the association’s treasurer, was jailed for his involvement in a separate corruption probe involving the Health Services Authority. Bruce Blake, the first vice president of CIFA, was arrested in connection with an ongoing Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission inquiry connected to CIFA’s finances in June. Mr. Blake has not been charged with any crime and maintains his innocence.
Public and private sector funding has dried up in the aftermath of those scandals, but CIFA is beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.
CONCACAF and FIFA have restored funding and Mr. Whittaker believes the organization is starting to get its house in order.
“Armando [new treasurer since 2015, Armando Ebanks] has done a good job. We now need to accelerate the forensic audit. Once we get that done, we will sit down with our legal team and see what’s next.”
He acknowledged the election had been extremely close.
In the first round of voting, Mr. Whittaker took six votes with the other two candidates taking five. With CIFA rules requiring the victor to take more than 50 percent of the vote, the association held three rounds of voting, with no clear victor emerging.
At that stage, Renard Moxam withdrew from the ballot and put his support behind Mr. Whittaker, who eventually prevailed by 8 votes to 7 in a two-way runoff.
“I am very happy and looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
“There will be some changes, some fresh ideas and hopefully much more unity between the members and the association.”
He said he would be meeting with Lee Ramoon, who was elected to finish Webb’s term last year after his guilty plea, and Mr. Moxam in the coming weeks, as well as with the chairman of the CIFA youth committee, Neil Murray, as he seeks to formulate a plan of action for the sport.