JACK FIGHTS FIFA

“I can tell you he finally received his papers and an appeal will be filed,” a member of Warner’s staff told Newsday yesterday.

Warner was on Sunday suspended by the FIFA ethics committee pending a full investigation into allegations that he offered bribes to members of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) in exchange for their backing of former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam.

Under FIFA’s rules Warner can bring proceedings to challenge his suspension.

Article 18 of the FIFA code of ethics allows Warner to appeal any decision of the ethics committee to another committee, known within FIFA as the “appeal committee”.

“An appeal may be lodged to the appeal committee against any decision passed by the ethics committee,” Article 18 states. However, the rule stipulates that suspensions of “up to two months” may not be challenged.

However, Warner’s suspension is understood to be an interim suspension pending the determination of a final outcome. Ethics committee chair Petrus Damaseb on Sunday told reporters that interim suspensions normally last a term of 30 days but are renewable at the committee’s discretion pending deliberations. He did not say whether Warner’s suspension had a fixed duration.

With no fixed time-line stipulated for the suspension on Sunday, lawyers said the way is arguably clear for Warner to lodge an appeal with the FIFA appeal committee.

Warner had been due to return to Trinidad and Tobago yesterday. However he has pushed back his return to tomorrow. Newsday learnt that his attorney, Om Lalla, returned to Trinidad and Tobago last night, arriving at the Piarco International Airport after a flight from Zurich, Switzerland, that flew via New York.

Warner yesterday wrote members of the CFU urging them to not boycott today’s FIFA presidential elections.

“I, Jack Warner, a servant and believer in the principles of this beautiful game do humbly besiege you, my brothers and sisters from the Caribbean Football Union to desist from initiating any protest action at tomorrow’s FIFA Congress,” Warner wrote.

“At our last meeting we agreed as a Union to support the incumbent Joseph Sepp Blatter in his quest to regain the presidency. I wish to assure you nothing has changed – our mandate was set then and despite it all we must fulfill it.”

“My family, our foundation has been rocked and our strength is being tested but I urge you for the good of the game to attend tomorrow’s congress and fulfill your duties in representing the Caribbean.”

Warner added, “I know many of you are hurting and it is only human nature that you would want to demonstrate your anger but despite all we must not fuel a fire set by others to incinerate all that we strive for.”

Warner’s move was arguably surprising given the fact that on Sunday he had said Blatter must be stopped.

“Blatter has to be stopped. He has now Blazer as his ally—Blazer who has never spoken to me, never called a meeting of the Executive Committee,” Warner had said in the statement. At the same time, bin Hammam, who was suspended alongside Warner, yesterday made public his defence to allegations that members of the CFU were offered money at a meeting at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, in May.

That meeting took place only because bin Hammam was unable to attend a CONCACAF congress in the United States due to an “administrative” mix-up with a visa.

In a statement on his website, bin Hammam’s lawyers offered the following defence for why he was accused by American Chuck Blazer of paying bribes to the Caribbean Football Union at the meeting of May 10 and 11: “Since this was an extraordinary meeting of the CFU, Mr bin Hammam found it correct and insisted to pay the travelling and accommodation expenses of the delegates as well as the overall costs of the conference. For this purpose, Mr bin Hammam transferred the estimated costs of US$360,000 to the CFU prior to the meeting in Trinidad,” the statement said.

Blazer yesterday filed a fresh complaint against Warner, this time for allegedly violating his suspension by writing the CFU members.

While it remains unclear in what capacity Warner wrote to the CFU members, Blazer, in a statement of his own, said he had reported Warner to FIFA for his actions.

Blazer, the US FIFA member who reported bribery claims against Warner, also said the CONCACAF president had still been getting involved in the business of the confederation. He alleged that Warner had been meeting associations and that a statement from the acting CONCACAF president, Barbadian Lisle Austin, had come from Warner’s aide.

Blazer said, “We have clear evidence of a violation of his suspension and we have reported that to the FIFA secretary general, Jerome Valcke. He has also been meeting with (CONCACAF) members, which is against the rules of the suspension.”

Blazer was on Monday asked by Austin to account for why he took certain actions in his capacity as CONCACAF general secretary in relation to the Warner complaints. Austin’s first act was to issue Blazer with a written demand to stop working with the US law firm, Collins and Collins, who presented evidence against Warner on Sunday at a hearing of the ethics committee at Zurich, Switzerland.

But Blazer, also a FIFA executive committee member, told Reuters yesterday that he had no intention of ending the relationship with the Chicago-based firm.

It was Blazer’s report to the ethics committee, which included allegations of bribery against Warner and bin Hammam, that led to this week’s explosion of accusations and counter-accusations at football’s governing body.

Austin gave the American 48 hours to explain by what authority he appointed Chicago-based Collins and Collins to conduct investigations into the members of CONCACAF. But Blazer said it was within his rights to work with the legal firm.

“It clearly falls under my jurisdiction as general secretary of CONCACAF,” said Blazer.

However, late last evening the UK Telegraph reported that Austin had fired Blazer with immediate effect.

Quoting from a letter, the Telegraph reported Austin said in the letter that he considered Blazer had “grossly insulted and defamed” Caribbean associations by stating “that each member association was under investigation for bribery”.

The acting president also said Blazer had “improperly appointed five non-elected members of CONCACAF to congress.”

In light of the unfolding events, the English Football Association and the Scottish Football Association both yesterday renewed calls for a postponement of the FIFA presidential elections. However, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) declined to join the call. UEFA president Michel Platini yesterday ruled out the possibility of contesting against Blatter.

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