2018? Warner gives England the Mexican Wave Goodbye
By Andrew Jennings
Sunday 8 February, 2009
Jack Warner must have his World Cup. FIFA’s serial kleptomaniac, now 65, knows that 2018 is his last chance to acquire the world’s most lucrative sports event and, with his greedy family, loot it. Where does he want it? Mexico.
If anything goes awry, the USA is the fallback. Both countries are captive members of Concacaf, the regional FIFA franchise controlled from Trinidad by Warner.
It’s unthinkable that the Warners would let a World Cup and the once in a lifetime chance to skim TV rights, marketing and hotel packages slip through their fingers. And of course they are well-practiced as the biggest ticket racketeers ever.
When they staged FIFA’s Under-17 championship in Trinidad in 2001, I was there to see them snaffle fast food and beverage contracts in the stadiums, security, hotels, the IT business and, with the personal approval of FIFA president Blatter, their travel agency got all 15 teams’ flight tickets. The construction contracts came earlier.
In 2007 Warner told the BBC that his franchise must host 2018 saying, ‘There are moves to give it to England. I must fight that. I really don't believe that we should lay down and play dead to anyone who wants to take the World Cup from Concacaf.’ Only two countries in Warner’s franchise could stage the championship: Mexico and America.
For the last few years Blatter has jerked football around, promising, then withdrawing, rotation around the continents. This obfuscation smells of a pact perfected in FIFA’s shadows.
What is that deal? Warner boasted in 2003, ‘I have told Mr Blatter that whenever he is running for election do not come to campaign in Concacaf. He doesn’t have to. Don’t waste his time. Concacaf has 35 votes. He gets 35.’ Blatter gets the FIFA Presidency for Life; Warner gets all the money he can bank, all the tickets he can tout. Ever noticed that when caught racketeering, Blatter inevitably protects him?
And at last, his own World Cup in a country rarely troubled by business transparency. The downside with America is all that freedom of information – and picky business regulators.
Why so sure about Mexico? Drop by Warner’s vast, private commercial leisure, health club and convention complex, with artificial pitch in Trinidad - the Centre of Excellence – all paid for by FIFA.
One salon is named after Herr Blatter. It should be. He provided the cash. The other big one is the Guillermo Canedo Hall. Mexican TV mogul Canedo was a member of FIFA’s ruling group from 1962 until his death in 1997. His understandings with president Joao Havelange brought the World Cup to Mexico in 1970 and again in 1986 and truckloads of dollars for Canedo’s Televisa company.
Canedo’s son, another Guillermo, became a vice-president of Warner’s Concacaf in 2003, the same year he was appointed boss of Televisa International. He also sits on FIFA’s Marketing and Television advisory board.
Can Warner pull it off? Mexico and the USA have adequate facilities – and delivered in the past. Rival bids, hobbled by the global financial meltdown, will struggle to find funding for stadiums, new roads and hotels by December next year.
So Russia’s bid - as oligarchs seek buyers for their yachts - may be as credible as the soon to evaporate bids from impoverished Indonesia, sweltering Qatar and confused Japan and Korea.
Blatter’s banning two-country bids looks part of the conspiracy. Holland/Belgium are more compact than England, the trains are better and so is the beer. Spain/Portugal is only slightly larger. France in 1998 was bigger. What’s the problem? They are the problem. They are surplus to requirements.
An early bath looms for Holland/Belgium with Portugal abandoned on the bench by Spain - which may stagger on to become, with England, Europe’s two bids.
UEFA is likely to favour Spain. Their boss Angel Villar Llona is tight with Blatter and active on FIFA’s refereeing committee. England’s Geoff Thompson, who elbowed the moral John McBeth aside, is the only FIFA vice-president that never comes up on my Google searches. Invisible.
Australia? The irritating thought won’t go away that billionaire Frank Lowy’s bid is to divert attention from tax probes into his business empire – and why his son Peter pleaded the fifth when questioned on Capitol Hill last year about the family’s secret accounts in Lichtenstein.
FIFA’s leaders are fond of Frank and luxuriating on his yacht, lengthy enough to squeeze between two penalty areas - but the berth stops there.
The fantastical notion that England is ‘front-runner’ has been invented by London reporters. The only way to know is to poll the 23 voting members at FIFA – and they do omerta. Likely scenario: Spain and England bruise each other, America withdraws and Televisa pulls clear to win it. For the English, it may be the Mexican wave – goodbye.
Continued . . .