CFU on repairing
PANAMA CITY, Panama — There was a strong sense of collective determination and will to bury its ghostly past and to set sail on a course of accountability, transparency and profitability.
The Caribbean Football Union (CFU), in a continuous and desperate bid to reinvent itself and repair its damaged image coming out of the nightmarish cash-for-vote scandal, spoke with a unified voice — perhaps for the first time — at its 35th annual congress here yesterday.
As the umbrella group for football in the Caribbean picks up the pieces and presented its first "audited statement and financial report" — albeit on a provisional basis — there was still a lingering cloud of the painful memory of an organisation brought to the brink by claims and counter- claims of corruption and a lack of transparency over the life of the organisation.
With their best efforts and without once mentioning his name as they sought to put the past behind them, those who addressed the gathering of the 30-member CFU could not fully hide their feelings of contempt and misgivings of a dark period when the organisation was run by the autocratic Trinidadian Austin 'Jack' Warner.
Warner resigned from all posts he held in football — including president of CONCACAF and the CFU and FIFA vice-president — as a result of the vote-buying scandal, which claimed many other casualties back in 2011.
"I was able to stand up to a powerful individual... we were working for them and not them for us. Mexico has a voice and we will be heard," lashed out president of the Mexican Football Federation, Justino Campean, a well- noted opponent of Warner's leadership style.
Campean, the straight-talking but affable Mexican, suggested that CONCACAF and the CFU will be better and that the old style of leadership is a thing of the past.
The Mexican football boss will today challenge US Soccer Federation boss Sunil Gulati for the post as FIFA executive committee member from the North America zone when CONCACAF holds its 38th Congress today at the Westin Playa Bonita seaside resort here.
Gulati, who also addressed the CFU congress, said both CONCACAF and the CFU are "on the right track" in becoming stronger as they look to the future.
"The confederation is in a good financial position and distribution of these funds are important in going forward," he noted.
Meanwhile, president of the CFU, Antiguan Gordan Derrick told the gathering that the focus is on improving the corporate governance structure of the union, and underlined that the pillars of this process will be "full accountability and transparency".
"There is a misconception out there that we (in CFU) are all corrupt and that is so not fair to broadbrush the entire region because a few of us may have gone astray," he said in an address to the congress.
In its efforts to achieve proper functionality, the CFU has set up 15 working committees with representation from the spread of its membership.
Derrick, who was propelled to the post at a congress in Hungary last year, suggested the path that CFU has laid in repositioning itself will change views about the way it does business from administration to the field of play.
"We got to start thinking globally and no longer local and we will gain the respect of the world by excellence," he noted.
Meanwhile, general secretary Damien Hughes sought to enlighten the gathering on the state of the CFU's relationship with cellphone giant Digicel, who was not on board during last December's Caribbean Cup.
"We couldn't agree on a deal in time for the Caribbean Cup, as Digicel's budget year had closed. I can tell you that we have two meetings scheduled with them and that the relationship between both parties is good," said Hughes.
"The discussion is for Digicel to be a partner across the programme rather than just a tournament," he added.
It was also announced yesterday that CFU's secretariat will be based in Jamaica, and a property has already been purchased in the pricey financial district of New Kingston. The membership was told that the property was acquired and will be renovated and furnished with US$1 million from FIFA.
The operating income for the CFU in 2012, according to finance committee chairman Cannover Watson, was US$3.5 million, with $2.2 million coming from TV rights from Traffic Sports and another $1.3 million injection from parent body, CONCACAF.
Projected income for 2013 has been put at US$2,869,900 and expenditure put at US$2,985,025, leaving a deficit of US$115,125.
The CFU says in its efforts to achieve good governance it is trying to build a transparent financial profile as "prior to 2012, there were no financial records, or we didn't have access to them".
The provisional budget for 2013 was approved and is to be presented in a more detailed form and will include the 2014 numbers at an extraordinary congress set for Jamaica in September.