Dear Sunil: Where Do You Stand?


At the time I noted that the entire leadership team had run unopposed, which was true. However, there was one thing I skipped because it just didn't seem that important and I'm always looking for ways to shorten my often over-long missives.

I should have known that, with Jack Warner, the devil - I use the term advisedly - is in the details.

So to clarify the election process: there was originally one other candidate for Caribbean Region Representative on the CONCACAF Executive Committee: Peter Jenkins, the former President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Football Federation.

The reason I didn't bring this up is because Mr. Jenkins dropped out as a candidate the day before the Congress and, as such, Jack's good pal "Captain" Burrell (he likes being called that even though his military credentials are, shall we say, somewhat ephemeral) was indeed unopposed when the vote was taken.

Now as I've noted, Burrell is a particular favorite of Warner's. A few years ago when the Jamaica Football Federation tossed him out of office, Warner simply gave him a CONCACAF job and, later, some well-paid FIFA committee assignments.

Then, when the newly elected President of the JFF challenged Warner's right to control and sell TV rights to all national team games for all Caribbean countries (a move which benefits the smaller islands - and Warner, who gets to do whatever he wants with the money - at the expense of the larger islands, like Jamaica, who could probably do better on their own) Warner went ballistic.

Fortunately, when the next election rolled around, Burrell resorted to the simple expedient of buying 11 of the 14 teams which constitute the voting members of the JFF. The new guy resigned, Burrell got the job back and everyone was happy.

Earlier this year Jenkins decided to try for Burrell's seat, running a quiet campaign based on the fact that CONCACAF has a wide disparity of interests between the big countries and the small ones, which everyone knows but, apparently, no one is allowed to say.

Unfortunately, most of the federations were afraid to stand up to Jack Warner and Jenkins was able to get support from only two countries: Antigua/Barbuda and Grenada.

So when last week's election rolled around, Jenkins bowed to the inevitable and withdrew.

End of story, right?

HA! Have we learned nothing?

It seems that Jack is carrying something of a grudge. It isn't enough that Jenkins got beaten like a rented mule, admitted defeat and quit the race. Nor is it enough that Burrell was re-elected unanimously to another four year term as Warner's Bootlicker-in-Chief. It's not even enough that out of 40 Federations only 2 had the temerity to question Warner's choice for the job.

No, Jack wants something more.

Specifically, he wants to make sure everyone gets the message that he won't tolerate dissent, he won't allow candidates that he himself didn't pick and he won't permit any public suggestion that anyone in CONCACAF is unhappy about his leadership.

So yesterday Jenkins, who has continued to serve on several committees, received a letter from Warner, informing him that he is henceforth banned "from all commissions of both CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union (CFU)".

The letter, which Warner made sure was "widely circulated", said he has instructed the general secretaries of both football organizations to expel Jenkins:

"In your (Jenkins') case, on the advice of the committee of the CFU, I have instructed the general secretary of both the CFU and the CONCACAF to remove you forthwith"

(Just in passing, you may want to note that the General Secretary of CONCACAF, the one who will serve as Jack's hatchet man here, is our old pal Biker Claus, American Chuck Blazer.)

And he wasn't finished. The letter goes on to say

"I do wish to advise you that, at the meeting of the Caribbean countries on Sunday, May 31, 2009, it was decided that the Antigua/Barbuda and Grenada (two members who were absent at the said meeting) should be written to and be asked to submit reasons why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for their attempts to destabilise Caribbean football and Caribbean solidarity within the CFU,"

"If their explanations are not satisfactory, disciplinary proceedings shall be instituted against both countries"

According to Warner, having more than one candidate for a position is contrary to "the political conventions" of the CFU and "this is what we have fought against over the years"

To put it more bluntly, Warner is the boss and if you dare to complain he'll squash you like a bug.

So I'd like to ask USSF President and CONCACAF Executive Committee member Sunil Gulati a couple of questions here:

Where do we stand on this?

Is it the position of the United States Soccer Federation that disagreeing with Jack Warner or contesting free and open elections for CONCACAF offices is something that should be punished?

As an ExCo member, when the issue of "punishing" Antigua/Barbuda and Grenada for supporting a candidate Jack Warner doesn't like comes up, how will the USSF vote?

Do you, as an ExCo member, agree that anyone who dares to open their mouth and suggest that there may be issues within CONCACAF that aren't being properly addressed should be forever banished from holding any official position within the organization?

And finally:

Do you have any intention of finally growing a backbone and standing up to this petty thug?

The USSF, as a large, wealthy and powerful organization, has the duty and the obligation to stand up for the rights of small, weak federations who can only cower and bow and scrape when Jack Warner frowns.

It took an incredible amount of courage for the representatives of these two federations to stand up, however tentatively, to the Great and Powerful Warner.

I'd like to think that the USSF has at least as much. Sadly, nobody will be surprised when it becomes clear that it doesn't.