In a statement issued yesterday, Warner insisted that his resignation was to spare FIFA as well as the CFU and Concacaf further “acrimony and divisiveness.” In a quick response, the United National Congress (UNC), of which he is chairman, has publicly offered its support for him. (SEE PAGE 5A). The UNC is the main political party that makes up the governing People’s Partnership coalition government.

“This decision is by my own volition and self-determination; albeit it comes during the sequel to the contentious Mohammed bin Hammam meeting in Port-of-Spain in May with CFU delegates,” Warner said.

“I am convinced and I am advised by counsel, that since my actions did not extend beyond facilitating the meeting that gave Mr bin Hammam an opportunity to pursue his aborted bid for the FIFA presidency, I would be fully exonerated by any objective arbiter.

“I have, nonetheless, arrived at the decision to withdraw from FIFA affairs in order to spare FIFA, CONCACAF and in particular CFU and its membership, from further acrimony and divisiveness arising from this and related issues.”

FIFA yesterday announced in a statement on its website that it has accepted the resignation and that the bribery allegations are dropped. “As a consequence of Mr Warner’s self-determined resignation, all ethics committee procedures against him have been closed,” FIFA said. The organisation made a point of stating that there were no findings against Warner, adding, “the presumption of innocence is maintained.”

“FIFA regrets the turn of events that have led to Mr Warner’s decision. His resignation has been accepted by world football’s governing body, and his contribution to international football and to Caribbean football in particular and the CONCACAF confederation are appreciated and acknowledged,” FIFA said.

Warner and fellow FIFA member Mohammed bin Hammam were among four persons suspended last month after they were accused of giving or offering bribes of TT$252,000 (US$40,000) to the 25 members of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) at a May meeting at the Hyatt Hotel, Port-of-Spain. The total sum involved was $6.3 million (?1 million) according to a report to the FIFA ethics committee.

Questioned at a media event at Mausica over whether he came to a deal with FIFA, Warner said, “Mr Bagoo, you could say this is a deal. Whether I tell you so or not you will say what you have to say. I don’t make deals. I don’t make deals with FIFA.”

By letter dated Friday, Warner tendered his resignation as FIFA vice-president, Concacaf president and CFU president. In his resignation letter to FIFA, which was quoted by US business channel Bloomberg yesterday, Warner pledged to cooperate with the investigations which will continue in relation to bin Hammam.

“I reaffirm my offer of cooperation with the FIFA ethics committee in the resolution of the ongoing investigations into alleged irregularities pertaining to the recent visit of Mohammed bin Hammam to Port-of-Spain to meet with CFU delegates,” Warner said

In an interview with Bloomberg, Warner said he had been “hung out to dry” and had lost the enthusiasm to carry on with holding his football portfolios. He accused the Concacaf general secretary Chuck Blazer of undermining him.

“I have lost my enthusiasm to continue,” Warner told Bloomberg. “I’ve been hung out to dry continually and I’m not prepared to take that.”

He added, “Had we announced in Miami (the) Concacaf support for (Sepp) Blatter (in the FIFA presidential elections), all this would never have happened...The general secretary that I had employed, who worked with me for 21 years, with the assistance of elements of FIFA has sought to undermine me in ways that are unimaginable.”

The timing of Warner’s resignation however drew negative inferences from some who noted that the committee will not be able to make a determination in relation to his case. Under Swiss association law, the FIFA ethics committee may only govern affiliated members, some argued.Warner began his day yesterday at about 8.30 am, privately visiting the site of the Marsicans Steel Orchestra at the Arima Old Road to inspect damage done by the Mausica River due to heavy rainfall. He later held a meeting at his ministerial offices at Richmond Street, Port-of- Spain, at noon with his attorney Om Lalla, spokesperson Hema Ramkissoon and Roy Augustus.

In an indication of his resolve to send a clear signal that he is now immersing himself completely in ministerial duties, Warner later called the media out to tour the same area again, four hours later. He initially declined to field questions on FIFA, referring all questions to his attorney Om Lalla. He later responded to questions, appearing sombre and reflective. Warner said he would not change his position of accepting only $1 of his $14,000 ministerial salary, a position he famously adopted after taking office.

“That does not change,” he said. “Why should that change?” He added, “I have work to do here. I have come here to do that. I came to see about the problems of Arima.”

Warner’s exit from FIFA goes someway towards solving a dilemma his dual posts have held for Government.

From the very beginning he was criticised for holding on to his FIFA vice-presidency in the face of a convention which holds that ministers give up private business affairs upon assuming public office. The Cabinet, on the strength of four legal opinions, opted to allow Warner to maintain both posts.

The recent finding of a case against him in relation to the May CFU meeting at the Hyatt, however, placed strains on the PP Government, dividing opinions in the Cabinet. Congress of the People MPs–including deputy political leader Prakash Ramadhar–had called on Warner to “step aside” pending the FIFA ethics committee hearing.

At the same time, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar stood by Warner, saying he was innocent until proven otherwise. But the risk of a finding adverse to Warner has loomed large. Until, now.

Warner’s attorney Om Lalla yesterday said FIFA, as a private organisation based at Switzerland, is under no obligation to comply with requests made by Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs for information over the incidents of May 10 to 11 at the Hyatt.

“With my withdrawal from service in international football, I shall, henceforth, be concentrating exclusively on my lifelong commitment to the service of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, currently as chairman of the major party in our governing coalition and as a Cabinet Minister in the Government of our Republic,” Warner added in his statement.“I am gratified that FIFA has acknowledged my service to international and regional football over several decades.”

Speaking with reporters on the allegations against him, Warner said all will soon be revealed.

A long, controversial football career

JACK WARNER’s resignation from the world’s organising bodies for football has brought to an end a long and controversial career in the realm of the world’s most popular sport.
Warner, 68, a former history school teacher, has said goodbye to his FIFA vice-presidency as well as his position as president of CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union (CFU). Warner had been a member of the FIFA Executive Committee since 1983, and was the CONCACAF President since 1990.

It was only last month, as he marked 28 years at the healm of CONCACAF, that he was re- elected unopposed to the post.

Among his achievements in football was his overseeing of this country’s first visit to the World Cup, the 2006 tournament held at Germany.

Warner also set up the Centre of Excellence at Macoya, which is named after former FIFA president Jo?o Havelange.

But Warner’s rise has not been without controversy.

Warner was reportedly reprimanded in December 2006 for the involvement of his family company, Simpaul Travel, in a 2006 World Cup ticketing scandal. Although there was never any proof that he had personally been involved, his son Daryan was told to pay a fine by FIFA’s ethics committee said to have been around TT$6.3million. Warner was cleared of allegations.

But the allegations against Warner were at the centre of a larger set of corruption exposes on FIFA over the years, notably in a book by British journalist Andrew Jennings.
Even earlier, in 1989, Warner was criticised for the massive overselling of tickets for a match between Trinidad and Tobago and the United States and the Hasely Crawford Stadium in the build-up to the 1990 World Cup at Italy. The extent of the overselling was so large that even persons who got tickets to watch the match from the Queen’s Park Oval some distance away were disappointed as that venue, too, was overcrowded.
Warner, then the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (later the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation) denied any responsibility. The report of a commission of inquiry into the alleged over-selling by Lionel Seemungal was never published. Seemungal has since died.



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