The Caribbean has no reason to fear that football development in the region will be ignored by FIFA, says Barbados Football Association president Randy Harris.
Harris comments come in the wake of concerns expressed by Trinidad and Tobago national player-turned coach Keith Look Loy, that inadequate representation within FIFA’s top echelons could spell problems for football development in the region.
The Trinidadian official said over the weekend the Caribbean previously always had strong representation on the global football body’s board with former FIFA vice-presidents Austin “Jack” Warner and Jeffrey Webb. However, both have been accused of corruption and are facing likely criminal prosecution. Warner has resigned from all FIFA and CONCACAF posts while Webb has been removed from his top positions. Currently no Caribbean official is in a senior FIFA position.
But in an interview with Barbados TODAY Harris said there were 31 members in the Caribbean Football Union with each representing a vote and these were significant numbers not to be scoffed at in the context of having a voice within FIFA.
He said notwithstanding the charges levelled against Warner and Webb, he was confident CONCACAF would move ahead to elect an individual of integrity as its president. He stressed that despite the troubles facing the region’s two former powerful football administrators, it should be understood that corruption did not come from countries but came from individuals.
Harris noted Caribbean officials still had a role to play in FIFA’s hierarchy.
In the past under Warner’s leadership the CONCACAF region secured additional World Cup spots which saw both Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago qualify for the France 1998 and Germany 2006 World Cups respectively.
Quizzed as to whether he had an interest to serve as president of CONCACAF, Harris said he did not see himself as a candidate at this time but added there were others also with the integrity to fulfill that role.
Harris also touched on the influence that some major sponsors had sought to wield on football’s governing body. Today South African businessman and candidate to succeed FIFA president Sepp Blatter, Tokyo Sexwale, said major sponsors of world soccer went too far when they issued calls last month for Blatter’s resignation. Coca-Cola Co, McDonald’s, Visa, and Budweiser owner Anheuser-Busch InBev, companies that have long linked their brand names to soccer, issued almost simultaneous statements in October demanding Blatter step down immediately in a strong push for change at FIFA.
But noting the importance of sponsorship, Harris said companies that linked their names to sports had a vested interest by virtue of their significant financial inputs and were within their rights to ask questions and offer opinions on what was happening in the particular sport.
However, Harris noted that such interventions by sponsors should not be placed out in the public domain but should be privately considered. He added organisations such as FIFA had internal controls and processes to deal with such infelicities and sponsors should allowed them to function.