[FIFA] Former Concacaf president Jack Warner came clean on one of the most sordid chapters in FIFA history with his
version of what happened during the 1998 presidential election at which massive payoffs were allegedly used for then-general secretary Sepp Blatter to ward off
the challenge of Lennart Johansson and succeed Joao Havelange.
Warner's rambling “Straight Talk” address Thursday night included his assertion that "Blatter would never have seen the light of day as president of FIFA" but for the 30 votes Warner delivered thanks to a deal he cut with Havelange.
And Warner confirmed one of the great stories of FIFA lore that he delivered the Haiti vote "with Blatter's permission" by getting the girlfriend of Jamaican Horace Burrell to vote for Blatter in place of the absent Haitian federation president Jean-Marie Kyss.
The 1998 FIFA presidential election was one of the most heated and closely contested elections in the body's history. With overwhelming support from Europe and seemingly strong from Africa, Johansson looked to be on the verge of an upset win.
To have any chance, Blatter needed total support from Concacaf, and Warner earned his reputation as a power broker by delivering Concacaf's 30 votes.
Here's the full transcript of how Warner says Blatter got his 30 votes, and he got a $6 million gift from Havelange for the Concacaf Centre of Excellence, at the center of Concacaf's recently concluded investigation into how Warner defrauded the organization out of millions of dollars.
"On April 6, 1990, I was elected President of Concacaf and I assumed office in July some three months later. This is the only time I can recall that FIFA deferred the installation of a President of any Confederation for three months. Another time I will tell you the reason why.
I became powerful as the Concacaf President because I was able to increase the membership of the Caribbean Football Union of which I was also President from 1974 to 2011 into a strong fighting unit to the point where the CFU had 28 out of 40 members in the Concacaf.
As the President of the CFU with 28 out of 40 members in the Concacaf, I held a position and a level of power, which I never abused.
In fact when I became President of Concacaf I was given a table, two chairs and $40,000 to work with from the old Administration.
When I resigned from Concacaf there was some $37 million in the bank, three offices, and unmeasured goodwill. I recall when I first became Concacaf President for months we could not pay the rent and it was Chuck [Blazer]’s wife who had to pay it for us. I also recall that we could not pay for an audit of the financial records we inherited and it was Kenny Rampersad & Co. who did our audit free of charge for years.
Kenny, wherever you are, I want to sincerely apologies for whatever pain or embarrassment you and your firm are now experiencing for having associated with Concacaf.
During the period 1992 to 2011, no other president of any Confederation brought more countries to FIFA than I did because I was of the view that to expand the beautiful game of football there was need for a paradigm change where even small territories such as Anguilla and Aruba, BVI and USVI and even the Cayman Islands should be included.
I never had an elitist policy. As President, my goal was to include and embrace every island state.
It is informative to note that the old Concacaf had refused the Cayman Islands membership three times before I became its president. And when I became president of Concacaf in 1990, two years later I made Cayman Islands a member of Concacaf and of FIFA. And today, that very same president of Cayman Islands [Jeffrey Webb] is the president of Concacaf, though he may have conveniently forgotten how he came to be there.
You would remember that prior to 1996 Caribbean football teams were the butt of international ridicule. No one took us seriously. They laughed at us. They humiliated us on and off the field. Our teams were beaten 6-nil, 4-nil and 12-nil by Central American and North American countries.
And by 1996 I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided that something had to be done to improve the quality of football in the Caribbean. So I went to Dr. Joao Havelange who was the President of FIFA and I asked him for a $6 million U.S. loan to open a Centre of Excellence in T&T so that I could lift the level of football in the Caribbean and ultimately the Concacaf. I also decided then that I would use my influence to increase the Concacaf allocation of slots for the FIFA World Cup from one half of what it was then to three and one half what it is today.
Dr. Havelange was very sympathetic to me and to my cause. He agreed to provide me with the loan and he so instructed the then FIFA general secretary Sepp Blatter on or about 1997 to proceed accordingly. By 1997, I had taken the loan and I bought the premises of Metal Box and Lever Brothers through two companies which I formed and I also bought lands from Tricon.
But having now bought the land there was nothing I could have done in terms of structure and therefore I went back to Dr. Havelange and told him first of all I want the loan to be converted into a grant – a donation – and then I would want his help in terms of getting a structure in place.
Dr. Havelange’s help to me had not been unusual but I would say more about that later.
So on May 4, 1998, Dr. Havelange wrote me and told me that he had found an external solution to convert the loan into a donation. I have here the letter from Dr. Havelange and you can follow on the screens as I ask that the letter be now read to you. Notice the date May 4, 1998.
On May 14, 1998, ten days later, I wrote Dr. Havelange, thanking him for the external solution he had found to assist me with the construction of the Centre of Excellence. There is an error in the year of the referenced letter, which should have been 1998 and not 1996. But notwithstanding that, let’s read:
Again, by letter dated May 26, 1998, I wrote to Dr. Havelange thanking him for converting the FIFA loan into a gift to the CFU and Jack Warner.
On May 29, 1998 Dr. Havelange responded by letter expressing his thanks.
You may quite rightly ask why all this flurry of letters in the month of May 1998. Well I will tell you. Blatter was Havelange’s candidate to succeed him for the FIFA Presidency. Blatter had been at this time the most hated FIFA official. by both the European and African Confederations and without my Concacaf support at the FIFA elections, Blatter would never have seen the light of day as President of FIFA.
I told Havelange that, through him, Blatter will get Concacaf’s total support and Bin Hammam also said the same day thing though at the time he did not have Asia’s 100% support as I had with the Concacaf.
“Votamos como un bloque,” I told my Central American colleagues. In 1997, Havelange came to Antigua for the Shell Umbro Cup and in an invitation meeting at St. James Club, Antigua, again reiterated his request to me. Again I promised him Concacaf’s total support. Then and there he began to count Blatter’s votes and said that if Concacaf supported Blatter he will win by thirty votes. Concacaf at the time had 30 voting members.
The FIFA presidential elections were held in Paris on June 8, 1998. I will now ask that the results of that election be read.
51st FIFA Congress in Paris in 1998. After 24 years in office, Havelange decides not to stand for reelection. The Congress elects Joseph S. Blatter as his successor. Rival Lennart Johansson withdraws after Blatter has gained 111 votes to Johansson’s 80 after the first ballot.
Joao Havelange becomes a FIFA honorary president. Joseph S. Blatter, president of soccer’s world international governing body, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), soccer’s world governing body. Mr. Blatter was elected at the 51st Ordinary FIFA Congress on 8 June 1998 in Paris, defeating his opponent in the presidential election, Mr. Lennart Johansson, by 111-80 votes. Before being elected FIFA president, Mr. Blatter was general secretary of FIFA. Mr. Blatter was appointed to this position in November 1981 after a distinguished career in business and sport, and was chief executive officer since 1990. Havelange was off by one!!! Blatter had defeated Johansson by 31 votes.
An interesting development at that Congress was that Haiti was absent and with Blatter’s permission, I got Captain Horace Burrell’s (of Jamaica) girlfriend to vote as the Haitian delegate by saying, “Oui!” when Haiti’s name was called.
In 1998 therefore, I had delivered and since then I emerged the second highest sporting personality in the FIFA.
1. I was placed on 6 out of 11 committees,
2. I was the Chairman of 2 and the Deputy Chairman of 2, one being the prestigious Finance Committee of the FIFA,
3. Trinidad and Tobago was given the seat to host the Under-17 2001 World Cup, and
4. Additional financial assistance was given for the further construction of the Center of Excellence.
I was Blatter’s idol then and he was mine.
I told Havelange that, through him, Blatter will get Concacaf's total support," Warner said. "Blatter had been at this time the most hated FIFA official by both the European and African confederations. I was Blatter's idol then and he was mine."
(Click here for the rest of Warner's speech.)