The fall from grace of Trinidadian Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, Caymanian Jeffrey Webb and now Antiguan Gordon Derrick has cast a pall over the integrity of football administrators in the region.
But Barbados Football Association president and acting president of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), Randolph Harris, is on a mission to restore the respect and confidence of fans in the administration of regional football.
The BFA’s head honcho who was recently elected first vice president of the CFU said the recent situation involving former CFU president Derrick was most unfortunate. But he added the members of the regional board were prepared to chart a new and positive way forward.
“Based on the events that occurred over the past eight years, we definitely have to look at our credibility as an organization. What we need to do now is come up with strategic plans and to put things in place, so that some of the things that occurred in the past will stay there. I don’t think it is so difficult. We have a number of bright people on board of CFU and I believe we would move in a more positive direction going forward,” Harris said.
Derrick was under investigation by the world ruling soccer body FIFA for some time now and initially recused himself from the top post of the regional football body before this week’s announcement that he had been banned from the sport for six years.
In a statement released by FIFA this past Tuesday, Derrick, general secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association, was found guilty on several counts of misconduct ranging from accepting gifts and other benefits, mismanagement of funds, abuse of position and disloyalty.
Despite the negative cloud hovering over the regional organization, the 57-year-old Harris with over 30 years of immeasurable experience as a football administrator, is not afraid to get the job done and said: “I think I have the support of the majority of the members at CFU and I think that is why they put me in the position at this time that they did and I know that I would get all the support and assistance in charting the way forward.”
Looking ahead, Harris explained that the CFU intended to work closely with the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) as it sought to bring about more positive changes for the growth and development of the regional game.
Explaining how the CFU board intended to bring its plan to fruition, Harris said: “The members of the CFU voted for one CONCACAF programme which is the coaching programme and in that programme, it really seeks to work closely with the CFU in the development of football. We really look forward to working together [with CONCACAF] not only in terms of that kind of development but in terms of competition because next year in March you will see a new kind of competition, our CONCACAF Champions League where the countries of the Caribbean will play a lot more international games.”
Harris also noted his intention to run for the CFU presidency in 2018 and believes that being in the top position at the moment would give him a head start.
“I just have to perform in a way that the members could have more confidence in terms of putting me at the helm and I look forward to that,” he said.
Over the past eight years, in addition to Derrick’s fall, both Warner and Webb have been implicated in corruption while serving as officers of FIFA and having also served at the helm of CONCACAF.
Webb, the disgraced former FIFA vice-president pleaded guilty in 2015 in New York to racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering charges. The FIFA ethics committee also banned him for life and fined him US$1 million for taking bribes. He also agreed to forfeit more than US$6.7m as part of his plea deal. He is still in the United States where he is to appear in court on January 24, 2018, to be sentenced for his crimes.
However, Warner remains firmly rooted in his homeland where he is fighting extradition to the United States. In May 2015, Warner, together with other FIFA Officials and corporate executives, was indicted in a US Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, for several financial crimes, arising during his time as vice-president of FIFA. His alleged crimes included accepting millions in bribes and diverting millions of FIFA money into his personal accounts and into private properties.