Requiem for a Heavyweight

The irony in all of this is so rich that it could easily be a retired schoolteacher from Trinidad who decided to get involved in football administration.

That's because the FIFA Ethics Committee - the same one which has just forced Jack Warner, The Pirate of the Caribbean, to quit international soccer forever - was originally established specifically to protect Warner from being punished for his many and varied nefarious deeds.

You will recall that in the aftermath of the 2006 World Cup, FIFA's own auditors presented evidence that Warner had used his official position to gobble up over 5000 prime tickets (which he still, to the best of anyones' knowledge, has never paid for), packaged them with overpriced airfare and hotel rooms through his Simpaul Travel agency and peddled them on the open market in direct violation of about a dozen very specific FIFA regulations.

The worlds' football media was in an uproar. Nobody knew for sure how much money he had cleared with this scam but professional estimates started at US$ 5,000,000 and went up from there and, as was typical for Warner, the whole thing was so thinly veiled and grossly corrupt that even Sepp Blatter couldn't ignore it.

So in response to the torrent of complaints, Blatter announced the formation of a new "Ethics Committee" which would have virtually unlimited authority to look into abuses, rule violations and corrupt practices within FIFA.

Blatter touted this as the cure for all the foul misdeeds that people were accusing him of tolerating and the worlds' footballing media dutifully parroted the company line: "FIFA FInally Gets Serious About Ethics" was the theme of the day.

The thing that pretty much everyone failed to notice at the time was that the committees' investigative powers were, by statute, not retroactive. That is to say, nothing that happened prior to the establishment of the Ethics Committee in late 2006 could be considered, a clause which effectively closed the door on any and all of Jack Warners' kleptomaniacal acts.

Warner kept the money which FIFA knew he had illegally gained - the auditors' report was quite specific - and walked away with Blatters' blessing. When asked about the situation, Blatter blithely told reporters that Warner "has been forgiven".

So the Ethics Committee which was created in response to Jack Warners' ethical lapses was constitutionally prevented from investigating Jack Warners' ethics. A neat, slick, Sepp Blatterish trick if ever there was one.

Now for most of us the lesson we'd take away from having so narrowly dodged a bullet would be that we'd need to start being a lot more careful.

But in his case, Jack being Jack, the lesson he took away was that Sepp Blatter would find a way to cover for him no matter what he did. No reason to change a thing.

So when that Norwegian newspaper came up with documents last Fall proving that Warner had conspired to peddle hundreds of World Cup 2010 tickets on the black market, the news shouldn't have been as stunning as it was. Everyone scratched their heads and said "How on Earth can this guy be doing the same damn stuff he almost got nailed for back in 06?"

But the answer was really quite simple: he was Jack Warner, and he could get away with anything; Blatter had his back and, particularly in the middle of an election campaign, he could get away with anything.

Which is how we got to the T&T meeting.

Chuck Blazer, his oldest and closest ally for all those years, the man who had put him in office to begin with - even the idea of Warner running for President of CONCACAF as a replacement for an ancient, deaf Mexican guy, was originally Blazers' - warned him not to do it, telling him that it was stretching the rules farther than FIFA could ignore.

Jack didn't care. There was $350,000 worth of business for Simpaul, the travel agency which he told FIFA he no longer owns but which public papers reveal he most certainly does. There was probably some other cash as well. Maybe a lot of it. We'll never know for sure.

And Jack Warner knows as well as anyone that if FIFA has just one hard and fast rule it's that cash gifts are very specifically prohibited for any federation, at any time, for any reason. If someone flies into town and hands you a big sack of money and tells you it's for a soccer program for blind, deaf, mute, paraplegic orphans with AIDS, it doesn't matter. FIFA rules prohibit you from accepting it. You can't take cash. Ever.

Warner didn't care. When someone asked him what Blatter would say if he found out, Warner told him "He wouldn't care" and, based on his experience, he had every reason to believe that it was true.

How reckless it all seems now, how foolish. Teflon Jack, the guy who amassed a personal fortune estimated at US$100,000,000 on a schoolteachers' pension - he apparently clips coupons and reuses coffee filters - is brought down because of a lousy 40 grand being handed to some guy from the Bahamas who nobody had ever heard of.

Now he's claiming that Sepp brought him down, that Chuck stabbed him in the back, that John Collins, the lawyer who had served as his widely feared hatchet man for lo these many years has turned on him and all of it is a power play by vengeful Americans who want to wrest control of CONCACAF away from the CFU and punish him for not getting them the World Cup and who the hell knows what else.

The truth is, I'm not entirely certain that Warner really knows, even now, what really happened; that Sepp put his own ass on the line back in 2006 when he should have been thrown to the wolves, that Blazer refused to throw his own career down the crapper where he was sure Warner had just sent his own.

Not this time.

He got the reprieve in 2006 but he didn't learn the lesson, didn't change a thing, and now, in 2011, the Ethics committee that Blatter cleverly made sure could never investigate him is the group that handed him that file and said:

"Gotcha".