What are the odds?
In 2011 Thailand Football Association president Worawi Makudi’s name appeared on title deeds on land for a National Football Training Centre, partly developed with FIFA funds, in Bangkok. The FIFA executive committee member disgracefully escaped any sanction after providing a piece of paper with his signature on it from 2003 saying he had promised to donate it. It was only given to the Thai FA in November 2011, eight years after the fact, and four months after the allegations first surfaced that he owned the land.
Now it is alleged that former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, through two companies he owns, is the legal owner of the confederation’s $22 million Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence in Trinidad – a building that also utilised FIFA funds.
Warner’s not an executive committee member anymore, having fallen on his sword after the Bin Hammam “bribes” affair, so FIFA technically can’t punish him. Not that they would ever do anything anyway, the man having recently filled in as Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago and football’s world body previously having chosen to flog him with a lettuce leaf over past outrages.
He might have officially dropped out of football but Teflon Jack remains a highly powerful man. But it begs the obvious question.
How many (there may be none) current or recent former FIFA executive committee members have a financial interest in developments constructed partly or in full with FIFA money?
If things that appear untoward are going on practically unchecked in Thailand and Trinidad & Tobago, is this the tip of the iceberg?
What is FIFA doing to ensure all its development funding for projects by national federations around the world are actually being directed to the right places?
Take Sri Lanka and its executive committee member, Vernon Manilal Fernando.
What has FIFA done to address the allegations, aired by Sri Lankan journalists Tiran Kumara Bangamaarachchi and Vijitha Fernando in August last year that the Football Federation of Sri Lanka had not accounted for how $7 million in FIFA football development funds and tsunami relief donations was spent?
Coincidentally, Fernando, like Warner and Makudi, was in Port-of-Spain when Mohamed bin Hammam was alleged to have bribed Caribbean Football Union officials in May 2011.
Controversy has dogged a number of other current or recently retired exco members, too, including Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, Chuck Blazer of the United States, Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil, Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast and Issa Hayatou of Cameroon.
Where are the reassurances from FIFA, about to have its 62nd Congress in Budapest and loudly clattering pots and pans to announce to the world its brand-spanking new Audit and Compliance Committee and reloaded, twin-chambered Ethics Committee, that it is giving these very same committees the power to retroactively audit how selected FIFA development grants were spent and the power to forensically investigate (retroactively and ongoing) the financial dealings of all executive committee members, irrespective of whether complaints are made against them or not?
It’s that old epigram of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
FIFA isn’t fooling anyone except itself.
This column was originally published by ESPN STAR Sports. Please check for new columns by me every Thursday at www.espnstar.com. Love to see you there.