EDITORIAL – CIFA officials must leave no room for doubt

After nearly four years, it appears the Cayman Islands Football Association is in global football’s good graces, with association leaders announcing that FIFA will resume funding the game in Cayman.

As the Compass reported this week, CIFA President Alfredo Whittaker advises that FIFA has reviewed and accepted a forensic audit of CIFA’s books, leaving the local football organisation eligible to receive as much as $5 million in FIFA funding this year.

Auditors shared some of their findings with CIFA members at last month’s annual general meeting, but that information will not be released to the public, Whittaker told the Compass. The CIFA president, who has served in that capacity since late 2017, assured a reporter that no individuals involved in the suspicious transactions continue to be affiliated with CIFA.

“It has been over for a long time. We have been moving on big time,” he said.

But rebuilding trust takes time and transparency. Disclosing details of auditors’ findings would go a long way towards restoring the public’s faith in this important community group. Unless the association is temporarily holding details pending court proceedings, CIFA’s leaders should explain what happened and the steps they have taken to prevent future incidents. There can be no uncertainty that CIFA’s housecleaning has been thorough and absolute.

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Certainly, CIFA should not suffer forever for the misdeeds of a few individuals. Still, despite FIFA’s blessing and as eager as the organisation may be to put the past behind them, this ordeal is far from over. When asked about reinstating government funding for CIFA, a Ministry of Sports spokeswoman told the Compass government had not yet seen the audit – which included within its purview a review of nearly $1 million in suspicious loans from private companies.

Nearly four years after former president of CONCACAF and CIFA, and former vice president of FIFA Jeffrey Webb pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to racketeering, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy for his role in the FIFA scandal, he has yet to be sentenced for his crimes.

As a highly visible, youth-focused organisation, CIFA must embody the highest ethical principles. As role models for our children and representatives of our islands overseas, they should conduct themselves as leaders – with integrity, accountability, honesty and openness.

Corporate sponsors should never wonder for a moment whether their contributions are benefiting young athletes or are being siphoned off by bad actors. Fans should feel confident offering their unwavering support for our national team.

Most important, the athletes, coaches, volunteers, parents, youth players and supporters deserve a clean, well-supported programme that honours their considerable talents and efforts. National team members should play knowing that newspaper headlines will trumpet their triumphs, undistracted by news of misdeeds.

It could be argued that CIFA football is the closest our islands have to a national sport. It should also be a point of national pride. But before the association’s troubled past can truly be put behind us, the public must know exactly what happened so we can be assured it will not happen again.

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