FIFA vice-president and CONCACAF president Austin Jack Warner has been a member of the FIFA Executive Committee since 1983, and CONCACAF president since 1990.
Estimates suggest that he has amassed a fortune of almost US$50 million. When Warner became the general secretary of the Trinidad Football Association in 1973, he immediately entrenched his power by setting up numerous organisations filled with his people, who could exercise voting rights should he come under threat from a competitor.
He rapidly spotted a chance for further promotion when he ran for the presidency of the Caribbean Football Union, which came with the added prize of a seat on the FIFA Executive Committee.
Warner helped formed the Trinidad and Tobago's Professional Football League (PFL) in 1999, then the first professional football league in the Caribbean, which has since been superseded by the T&T Pro League. Warner purchased the Scarlet Ibis Hotel in St Augustine for TT$6 million in 1998, which he renovated and renamed the Emerald Apartments and Plaza.
Run by his son Daryl, that entity sponsored local football competitions, including the 2010 Eastern Football Association Emerald Apartments and Plaza Cup. Warner also owns Kantac Plaza in Arouca, which was used as the base for T&T’s successful 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign.
He has other real estate holdings, including the offices used by Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) and CONCACAF. CONCACAF pays Warner “nearly a third of a million dollars a year” rent. Warner also claims business interests in Costa Rica and the United States. Warner states that his investments were funded from “the salary and allowances I received from FIFA.”
He was re-elected for a new term as FIFA vice-president in 2011. During his tenure, Warner has been implicated in numerous corruption allegations that reach back as far as the 1980s. On May 10, 2011, corruption allegations were levelled against Warner by former English Football Association chairman, Lord David Triesman.
Triesman alleged that Warner was one of four FIFA executive committee members who asked for money in return for his vote supporting England’s 2018 World Cup bid. FIFA senior executives Mohamed bin Hammam and Warner have been suspended pending a full investigation into bribery allegations that they offered US$1 million in bribes to delegates at a Caribbean soccer association meeting on May 10-11 in Trinidad.
The payments were allegedly made to secure votes for bin Hammam, in his campaign to unseat Blatter. The evidence was compiled by US executive committee member Chuck Blazer. Following is the time line chronologising Warner’s ascendancy in FIFA and the controversies that have dogged him:
1963: General Secretary of the Central Football Association.
1971–73: General Secretary of the Central St George Football Association.
1973: Secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF).
1983: CONCACAF vice-president and also joined the FIFA Executive Committee.
1990: Elected president of the Caribbean Football Union, resigning his post in the same year at TTFF, but was immediately appointed a special adviser, a position that he still holds. He was also elected CONCACAF president.
1996: launched of Joe Public Football Club.
1997: Appointed FIFA vice-president.
2010: Stated his intention to stand for re-election as FIFA vice-president in 2011.
2011: Re-elected for a new term as FIFA vice-president.
1989: During T&T’s ill-fated World Cup 1990 qualifying encounter with the US at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, Warner announced that extra tickets would be printed for the game and alcohol restrictions within the ground would be lifted. The stadium’s 28,500 capacity seating was oversold and 45,000 tickets were printed.
1996: Warner was involved in substituting Vincy Jalal, the girlfriend of the head of the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF), Horace Burrell into the place of the absent Haitian delegate, Dr Jean-Marie Kyss, in the 1996 FIFA Congress.
1998: Haiti’s vote was also replaced at the 1998 FIFA Congress, this time by Trinidadian Neville Ferguson.
2001: The Under-17 World Cup was awarded to T&T. Contracts to build five new stadiums went to companies linked to associates of Warner. When technical staff from the broadcasting companies visited the new venues, they discovered that roof beams and cables would obstruct the cameras’ angles of the pitch. When they tried to question Warner and FIFA over this, they were sidelined.
• All the food and beverage contracts for the new stadiums were awarded to a local restaurant business, owned by Warner’s son, Daryan.
• The flights and accommodation arrangement for the 15 teams participating in the tournament were done through Simpaul’s Travel service, owned by the Warner family.
• FIFA was experimenting with introducing kiosks in hotel lobbies to enable fans to access instant reports and breaking news. The US$2 million contract was awarded to a company called Semtor, whose project manager turned out to be Daryan Warner, who picked up a cheque for US$60,000 as ‘management liaison between all Web initiative consultants.’
2002: Various global media publications alleged that Warner had made a profit of $350,000 selling 2002 FIFA World Cup tickets.
2004: When meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace, he complained to her that British companies were failing to spend their sponsorship money on football in T&T. (Jennings,
2005: T&T qualified for the World Cup for the first time after Dennis Lawrence’s header knocked out Bahrain to send T&T to Germany. The only way that Trinidadians could get tickets for the team’s first-round matches was through Simpaul Travel Services, the company owned by Warner. Tickets for the three group stage games and shared accommodation would cost fans £2,730.53. Simpaul Travel was making a profit of over £1,700 on each package sold. The Independent newspaper in England suggested that Warner made a profit of over £10 million on T&T’s ticket allocation. A privately appointed committee was responsible for handling the sponsorship and merchandising for the team.
After a request from a London-based business, they requested a fee of US$80,000, plus five per cent of gross sales of the proposed merchandise. The representative of the private committee turned out to be Daryl Warner, one of Warner’s sons.
FIFA regulations stated that packaging tickets with other services was not permitted, but Warner’s own company was flouting FIFA’s own rules, while he was accused of selling FIFA tickets for his own personal profit. In consequence of being found guilty of breaking FIFA’s Article 5, minutes of FIFA’s executive committee indicate that a fine of almost US$1 million, equal to the expected profiteering, was imposed on the family. Warner also agreed to severe all family links with Simpaul immediately.
However, Warner's son Daryan remained a director of Simpaul throughout World Cup 2006, while his personal assistant remained the company secretary of Simpaul. Despite numerous reminders from FIFA, only $250,000 has been paid.
The British newspaper The London Daily Mail reported that Warner’s son, Daryan was fined US$1 million in 2007, after investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, the presenter of FIFA’s Dirty Secrets revealed the Ernst & Young report which exposed that Warner had sold tickets through the travel agent Simpaul.
Jacks of all trades
By Kevin Baldeosingh (T&T Express)
SOME persons have expressed surprise that the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) issued a statement in defence of Austin Jack Warner. But it's perfectly logical: what else would an organisation with that acronym do in relation to bribery allegations against the country's most successful black man, if not to insist that it ent Jack?
What surprised me at first was the part of their press release which read, "NJAC finds it very difficult to accept that a man of such intelligence and experience would allow himself to be compromised, as alleged." Yet this is an organisation whose members have absolutely no difficulty accepting myths about geometry being discovered in Egypt instead of ancient Greece; or the Dogon tribe discovering the Sirius B star before anyone else; or combs being invented by an African.
Then I remembered that it's impossible for any African person to do anything wrong; and Africans who cheat, murder, or wear shoes only learned to do so from the white colonialists since Africa was perfect before the Europeans came, saw, and died from yellow fever.
Jack himself has often invoked the racial bogey when accused of wrongdoing. He did so 22 years ago in a television interview when he allegedly oversold tickets to the 1989 T&T-USA World Cup qualifying match; and he did it again in an Anna Ramdass report in the Sunday Express this week, saying, "I am in FIFA for 29 consecutive years. I was the first black man to have ever been in FIFA at this level... I must be the envy of others."
So maybe it's not coincidental that the allegations of bribery against Warner started in England, for that country has a lot of anti-Jack poetry, which small children learn by heart. Lord Triesman himself must have grown up hearing that Little Jack Horner sat in a corner eating his Christmas pie, he put in his thumb and pulled out a plum, and said "What a good boy am I."
The great British critic Ford Madox Ford pointed out that this rhyme, seemingly innocuous, addresses fundamental questions of good and evil, including whether pie is proof that God exists, or proof that a baker exists, or proof that God is a baker. "If Jack were a good boy," wrote Ford in his classic work The Symbolism of Buttered Parsnips in 17th century English Poetry, "why was he sitting in a corner?
Moreover, the premise on which the protagonist declares his own moral status is dubious, even admitting that extracting a plum with one's thumb requires no little manual dexterity." And when Triesman came to Trinidad, he may have learned that being a horner meant a lack of fidelity, which would have further deepened the negative connotations, though not to a Trini man.
When one considers the many other canards against Jack, it's a wonder that he was even allowed to become a FIFA vice-president, unless he was really expected to be a vice president. Perhaps he was helped by the perception that Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick. No doubt, when Warner got this post, he thought he'd hit the jackpot — if not, he certainly wasted no time in creating one.
But, as a former history teacher, how could Warner not know that this rhyme, first published in 1798, referred to a pirate named Black Jack, who was notorious for escaping from the authorities in the late 16th century? Then again, maybe he did. As for the tradition of candle-leaping, this originated from an old game of jumping over fires, where people would compete for the entire day and in the evening feast on roast testicles.
Which brings us to Jack Sprat who could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean, so between them both, you see, they licked the platter clean. This is another rhyme which maligns Jack. Why would peasants in the 17th century, when this rhyme originated, wash their wares with their tongues, especially given the moral strictures of that time?
Also, since English surnames were based on a man's job, one has to ask what profession a sprat followed. Whatever it is, it doesn't sound very respectable. So when, last Tuesday, Warner sent out a letter urging Caribbean Football Union representatives to support the unopposed presidential candidate, every man jack who's been brought up on these nursery rhymes must have interpreted this as an attempt to lick the Blatter clean.
All this is not to say that Warner is without fault in this imbroglio, After all, "Jack" isn't even his first name, and he decided to use that name instead of the small British car his parents named him after. He had grown up in a world where blackjack is a game in which the player who overplays his hand gets busted: and, having done so, Warner is now in danger of becoming a Jack in the box.