The absence of this information can lead to spin and obfuscation, and militates against the public’s ability to determine whether FIFA is really coming to grips with a problem that has long afflicted world football and has sullied the reputation of the organisation.
Nonetheless, we agree with Mr Edward Seaga, the former prime minister who heads the association of Jamaica’s Premier League clubs, that with last week’s developments, FIFA had provided an opening to “clean the nest of corruption in Caribbean football”. In this case, we embrace the interpretation of corruption to mean not only theft and bribery, but in its wider concept, to include a pattern of behaviour that contaminates ideals and is, in essence, immoral.
Fate in JFF’s hands
While we understand that the issues in the current circumstance are intertwined, the most immediate concern is the implication of FIFA’s actions for Jamaican football, including how the local federation should respond to the suspension of its president, Mr Burrell, effectively for three months.
Mr Burrell has said that he would leave it to his colleagues in the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) if they want him to go “altogether” or resume his post once he has served his ban. He clearly hopes it to be the latter, giving his expectation to resume his seat afterwards in FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee.
This is where the paucity of details from FIFA is particularly problematic. It is widely known that the charges against the Caribbean officials stemmed from the cash-for-vote scandal when Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam had hoped to challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency. Envelopes stuffed with cash were handed out to Caribbean Football Union (CFU) officials at a meeting hosted by then CFU president and FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, at which bin Hammam made a pitch for support.
Mr Burrell, early in the saga, steadfastly rejected seeing money being handed out and distanced himself from the receipt of any. In the aftermath of his ban, he has suggested that it was a consequence of failing to initially cooperate with the FIFA investigation, apparently out of concern for sovereignty. However, he has accepted the punishment, in support of the “cause for which it was handed down”, which is to put an end to “bad practice” and the exclusion of persons who “have engaged in reprehensible conduct”.
Who these persons are is not clear. What is clear, though, is the need for a new transparency and inclusiveness in the management of Jamaican and Caribbean football, and the question that Mr Burrell and the JFF have to ponder deeply is whether the suspended president, despite his past achievements, is the person to lead this renewal. It is often the case that those who have been mired in the past are not the ones to be trusted with the future.
Mr Burrell, by the coincidence of circumstances, will not be the one who will have the job of rebuilding the CFU in the wake of the disgrace of his former mentor and ally, Mr Warner. Mr Burrell’s ban and the timing of the CFU’s election mean that his candidacy cannot go forward. Jamaican stakeholders, with an absence of sentiment, must seriously debate his role at home.