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A THORNY ISSUE – The tip of the iceberg

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE – The tip of the iceberg

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Mohamed Bin Hammam’s lifetime ban by FIFA has put Caribbean Football Union (CFU) members back in the spotlight.
The former president of the Asian Football Confederation was thrown out of the game by FIFA’s Ethics Committee last Saturday after he was found guilty of bribing CFU members to vote for him ahead of the presidential race against incumbent Sepp Blatter.
Blatter eventually retained the post unopposed after Bin Hammam was suspended in the face of allegations and investigations about his actions.
It is also significant that two CFU members have been suspended for a year for allegedly distributing the money on Bin Hammam’s behalf.
There is that link that ties the Caribbean closely to the affair.
I think there is a very big price Caribbean nations may still have to pay for the part they may have played at the specially-arranged meeting in Trinidad in May this year.
I am mindful that there are some countries, including Barbados, who have denied taking any of the cash reported to be about US$40 000 for each CFU affiliate.
Peter could yet be paying for Paul and Paul for all.
We should note that chairman of the Ethics Committee, Petrus Damaseb, has indicated that they will keep the investigation open now that Bin Hammam has been sanctioned.
Given that the two CFU members have been suspended, I feel that there are some affiliates that may be trembling in their boots thinking how much dirt will be unearthed in respect of the bribes.
I think those associations which allegedly took money, must have concerns about whether they will be suspended or whether any legal action can be taken against them in a matter where illicit cash was passed to influence the outcome of a vote.
It is left to be seen whether they can be regarded as accessories to a premeditated crime.
And the claim by some that cash for votes is a known and accepted ploy in electioneering, it may not be a fitting excuse because wrongdoing is always likely to be punished even if there is no precedent for it.
The passing of money at the meeting in Trinidad can now become a case study for actions of this nature in future.
In fact, it may have served as a catalyst in FIFA’s bid to clean up their own alleged corruption from within.
I believe that given the gravity of the bribery allegations, the one-year suspensions the Trinidadians received can be considered as a relatively light sentence.
I can only assume that because they may have come clean and were very forthcoming with their evidence, that they were treated leniently and spared a longer period from the game.
Ah, but we can wonder if and how any evidence they gave to the Ethics Committee could possibly impact on their CFU colleagues in any forthcoming investigation.
It is not farfetched to suggest that they may have had to blow the whistle to save themselves from a stiffer penalty. Nobody wants to play the part of fall guys in such a potentially sticky situation.
After all, reputations stand the risk of being bruised or totally damaged and an uncertain future in the sport beckons those who have been accused.
There might still be more in the mortar than the pestle before this matter is settled once and for all.
From a parochial viewpoint, how would the Bin Hammam outcome affect the Barbados Football Association’s stand in refusing to allow their two representatives at the Trinidad meeting to travel to the Bahamas where evidence was taken in the investigation about the bribery allegations.
I still stand by my previous view that I didn’t see a problem with them going for the all expenses paid trip when they had nothing to hide.
I take them at their word, but others might not.
I feel this was an unnecessary cloud cast on their statements of having clean hands.
In what might be deemed a case of poor judgement on the part of the BFA’s executive, we may be targeted for seeming not to support the investigation.
I believe many more cards will be shown as this saga drags on.
Andi Thornhill is sports editor of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation