'Yes, it's off!'

'Yes, it's off!'

Candidate confirms contentious CFU Congress postponed

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer staff reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 20, 2011

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The proposed Caribbean Football Union's (CFU) Extraordinary Congress to elect a new president and executive is officially off ending weeks of speculations, which further dragged regional football down the road of ugliness.

Presidential nominee, Anthony James of Jamaica, confirmed to the Sunday Observer that the voting Congress slated for the Spanish-owned Riu Hotel in Montego Bay today has been postponed.

"Yes, it's off," he said on Friday, and referred the this reporter to a press release he sent to the media via email.

Said James: "I have recently been advised that today's CFU Executive meeting has decided to postpone the Extraordinary Congress scheduled for Nov 20 in Montego Bay, Jamaica".

He added: "My understanding is that these elections will now be preceded by a Presidents Meeting in Zurich in December".

"As in my release this morning, I will ask all those who promised to support me, to respect and support the CFU position and will respond to the CFU's press release as I receive same. Thanking you all for your patience, hospitality and important suggestions on my visit to your fine island," said James via email.

But both leading candidates -- James and Trinidadian Harold Taylor -- were insisting that the Congress would go on even after the acting CFU president, Haiti's Yves Jean Bart and general secretary Angenie Kanhai had announced that the Jamaica meeting was postponed due to financial constraints.

The contentious Extraordinary Congress surfaced after the CFU was thrown into a state of turmoil following the suspensions of several high-profile members as part of the fallout from the cash-for-votes bribery scandal that erupted last May.

The CFU president Austin 'Jack' Warner of Trinidad and Tobago was suspended by world governing body FIFA Ethics Committee and later resigned all his positions in football.

His deputy Captain Horace Burrell of Jamaica assumed the post as acting president, but was later suspended by FIFA shortly before the CFU Congress in September.

That Congress was postponed on the grounds that there was no funds to facilitate it.

But CFU presidential candidates Harold Taylor of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica's James decided to go ahead with Congress in Jamaica, but one which was not sanctioned by the local football federation and the CFU Executive Committee.

But emails acquired by the Sunday Observer of several correspondence between Taylor, James and CFU executive member and general secretary Angenie Kanhai showed them having significantly differing views on the state of the planned Congress.

Up to Tuesday of last week, Taylor sent email confirming the Congress to members of the CFU, while advising them that their bookings at the RIU Hotel in Montego Bay has been confirmed.

Said Taylor: "Please be advised that in spite of all you are hearing to the contrary, the Extraordinary Congress, will take place as scheduled in Montego Bay, Jamaica 20th November, 2011. This is an Extraordinary Congress requested by the Membership and as such the truncated Executive Committee does not have the power or the constitutional right to postpone it".

He continued: "Your accommodation at the RIU hotel in Montego Bay Jamaica has been paid for and confirmed".

But Angenie Kanhai quickly refuted those claims. "Based on my information I would like to advise that the statement "the majority of members have committed to airfares and travel" is incorrect and therefore the worst kind of assumption. I once again re-iterate that the meeting in Montego Bay is not an official event".

Checks yesterday by this newspaper with the RIU Hotel in Montego Bay revealed that there were no bookings to accommodate the CFU Congress.

CFU presidential candidates Taylor and James have repeatedly advised members that the hotel rooms were booked and were only waiting on names of the delegates to confirm.

"We need the names of your delegates and their travel schedule to make the required arrangements. I have arranged to be in Montego Bay, Jamaica from Friday 18th November to ensure that there are no misunderstandings when you arrive at the hotel," said Taylor in one correspondence to the electorate.

Also, James, a former president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), advised members that the local federation "re-establishes its pre-eminent position in hosting and supporting the Congress", something which acting president Dale Spencer flatly denied, saying the local Federation wouldn't be sanctioning the Congress.

James warned that if the CFU cannot restore harmony, sense of leadership and direction as quickly as possible, the regional body could lose more capital as a member of the global football family.

"If the Caribbean is not totally united quickly -- all thirty votes behind one leader -- we will become quite irrelevant in international football," he noted.

James stated further that JFF "should also rest assured that as a member in good standing, I have never, nor would ever do anything to disrespect or tarnish the image of an organisation that I have pledged my whole football life to".

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