CONCACAF makes strides in recasting image, forecasts successful Gold Cup
The sweeping arrests of global football figures in a US Department of Justice-led crackdown nearly two years ago dominated headlines.
Though those investigations are said to be ongoing into alleged organised corruption in football, there is hardly a mention these days.
But for sure, the scars arising out of the sordid affair will stand for a long time as a reminder of the game’s ugly underbelly.
Arising out of the investigations, arrests and prosecutions, top officials were among the casualties, including many from the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), which was the epicentre of the seismic event.
Likened to a television drama series, officials from South America, Central America and the Caribbean, in the main, were caught up in the probe’s deadly coil.
Later on, European big wigs — namely the former FIFA president Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter, his general secretary Jerome Valcke, and the UEFA president Michel Platini — were also brought down in unrelated scenes, but part of the widening plot nonetheless.
For CONCACAF, in particular, the thrust to rebuild the trust of commercial partners and that of its 41-strong membership, through stringent reforms aimed at achieving good governance and transparency, has been sprouting success.
“We are at a very good stage, but when it comes to that kind of stuff there is no destination; you just don’t arrive and you are done, because it’s very organic and you have to be vigilant,” said new CONCACAF head, Canadian Victor Montagliani.
“But we have definitely put in checks and balances internally in our Miami office and in our regional offices... also with our One CONCACAF Fund, although sometimes people would come to me and say ‘president, it’s so bureaucratic’, but that’s the reality of football now,” he told the Jamaica Observer last Wednesday.
The One CONCACAF Fund is a development programme through which each member association is eligible for an annual payout of US$125,000, funds specifically earmarked for youth programmes and women’s football. Eighty per cent of this pool of funds goes to the Caribbean’s 31 members.
Montagliani, who was in Kingston recently on his first official visit since being elected in a historic poll last May, indicated that the days of questionable business and operational practices are in the rear view.
“We have to make sure how money comes in and, more importantly, how money goes out. But I am happy how we have started, and we will continue to follow the right ethical guidelines as we (41 members of CONCACAF) work to the benefit of football,” said the FIFA vice-president.
Montagliani, who was in Jamaica to inaugurate CONCACAF’s Caribbean Development Office at the Courtleigh Corporate Centre last Wednesday night, said the confederation’s flagship tournament and main breadwinner, the Gold Cup, was shaping up to be another success way ahead of its July 7-26 staging.
“By the numbers I have seen on the pre-sales, they have already passed those of 2015,” he noted.
On the competition side, Montagliani expects sensational match-ups of the 12-team tournament, which is to be hosted by 14 cities across the USA.
“We have had the announcements of the groups and we have some exciting match-ups. and we have Jamaica and Mexico in the same group, and I am sure Jamaica was happy about that.
“Also, there will be some new blood, like Curacao and Martinique who hasn’t been there for a bit, and also French Guiana, and that shows that soccer is a romantic game and those stories are great stories,” he said.
In the 2015 edition, Jamaica created history by becoming the first Caribbean team to reach the final, where they were beaten 3-1 by Mexico in Philadelphia.
In Group C, the Reggae Boyz will have a chance at revenge against El Tri, plus El Salvador and Curacao.
Group A will be contested by Costa Rica, Honduras, Canada and French Guiana. Group B is to be headed by hosts USA, with Panama, Martinique and either Haiti or Nicaragua.
Haiti and Nicaragua are scheduled for a two-legged play-off for the final Gold Cup spot.
Like 2015, the winners will walk off with the Gold Cup trophy and US$1 million. Incidentally, the Gold Cup was paraded at last Wednesday’s office opening.