ZURICH (AP) — CONCACAF reacted swiftly after its acting president tried to fire whistleblower Chuck Blazer just hours before FIFA’s presidential election, telling the interim chief he did not have the authority to make such a move.
According to CONCACAF rules, the executive committee has jurisdiction over Blazer, general secretary of the federation that represents North and Central America and the Caribbean. Not only has the executive committee taken no action, but a majority of committee members told Lisle Austin he lacked the authority to fire Blazer, according to a statement posted on the CONCACAF website Tuesday night.
“This attempted action was taken without any authority,” the statement said. “Chuck Blazer continues as CONCACAF general secretary and with the full authority of his office.”
FIFA has been shaken to its very core following Blazer’s accusations that longtime CONCACAF president Jack Warner and Mohamed bin Hammam tried to buy votes for Wednesday’s presidential election. According to Blazer, Warner and bin Hammam offered Caribbean soccer leaders $40,000 each in exchange for their votes.
Bin Hammam had been the only challenger to Sepp Blatter, who is seeking his fourth four-year term. Bin Hammam withdrew early Sunday before an ethics committee found there was enough evidence against the Qatari and Warner to suspend them both while a full investigation is done. If found guilty, they could be expelled from FIFA and banned from all soccer activity.
Austin, who is acting CONCACAF president while Warner is suspended, tried to fire Blazer for “a gross misconduct of duty and of judgment” for his role in the FIFA scandal. In a letter written on CONCACAF stationery and sent to Blazer’s hotel in Zurich, Austin said the American had “grossly insulted and defamed” all of CONCACAF’s Caribbean members by saying each was under investigation for bribery.
Austin also said Blazer did not have the authority to hire John P. Collins, a former federal prosecutor who investigated the bribery allegations. Collins represents CONCACAF, and also is a member of FIFA’s legal committee.
“It is apparent that you are no longer fit to act as secretary general of CONCACAF and to represent its members,” Austin wrote.
The chaos surrounding CONCACAF is yet more drama in a crisis that Blatter has already said has left FIFA “shaking on its foundations.” Four major sponsors have expressed disappointment and concern that FIFA has been unable to deal with pervasive corruption claims, and England has urged that the election be postponed.