Today marks the final day of Chuck Blazer's tenure as general secretary of CONCACAF, an office that he has held for 21 years. Jack Warner, who had served as CONCACAF president over the same period, was forced out as a result of his FIFA-imposed suspension six months ago. It brings to a close a consequential era in the history of the confederation. Much has been written about this pair in this almost past year, and will be continue to be written in the coming year. I'd like to give my thoughts on the impact that these two men had on football throughout the region and the legacy that they have created.
When Blazer and Warner moved into CONCACAF leadership, the confederation was even more of a backwater in world football. It had hosted two World Cups (Mexico 1970 and 1986), but its yearly revenues were less than $200,000, its club and national team events were poorly organized, and aside from Mexico no other national association had made an impression on the international stage. I think the major accomplishment of Blazer and Warner was the modernization of the confederation's events and the overall raising of the confederation's profile in world football. Blazer took the lead on revamping the Gold Cup format and organization and initiated the transition of the Champions' Cup into the Champions League. Warner's skills involved mastering the political processes of FIFA in order to become a significant power broker in the sport. Through his presence, the Caribbean bloc had greater influence on the international stage than it had experienced before. His home country Trinidad & Tobago received the benefits of his clout with hosting rights to two junior World Cups and the most modern football stadia in the Caribbean.
Jack Warner wore a lot of hats in the region. In addition to being CONCACAF president, he was president of the Caribbean Football Union, an executive committee member of FIFA, a "special advisor" to the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation, president of Joe Public FC, a member of the Trinidad & Tobago parliament, and a cabinet minister in the Trinidad & Tobago Government. He also held a number of business interests as well in sports ticketing and broadcast companies. Holding such a diversity of executive posts that are linked together in unique ways screams out conflict of interest, yet Warner received few official challenges on this by FIFA. In the end Warner came to represent much of what was wrong with FIFA governance: unaccountable, untouchable, and unable or unwilling to eliminate conflicts between personal interests and those of FIFA. The Caribbean region faces a particularly painful transition as it attempts to refound itself in the post-Warner era and make itself relevant to the rest of the confederation.
I think the final legacy of the Warner/Blazer era will derive from the way in which their personal and professional association broke up over the cash-for-votes scandal. The rift that it opened up between the Caribbean and North/Central American blocs will not be easily repaired, and could result in the breakup of CONCACAF altogether. With Warner being ostracized from world football, the Caribbean region lapses back into the inconsequential region that it is: a grouping of economically fragile microstates that lacks a single national team in the FIFA Top 50, has a high concentration of national teams outside the Top 100, and is able to carry out a full international schedule at club or national team level. Now that Warner is gone, the North and Central American federations will ask themselves why they should be led by such a group. CONCACAF will have a very consequential 2012.
In the relatively short term the CONCACAF programs and tournaments will continue. The Champions League will continue to be a compelling club tournament, the Gold Cup will bring in much of CONCACAF's revenue, and World Cup qualifying for Brazil 2014 will continue. Their main offices will continue to be in Trump Tower in New York City. It's not clear how much longer these facts will remain true, which is what will make for an intriguing new year.