No one believed for a minute that Warner -- whose two sons, Daryll and
Daryan, and longtime buddy Chuck Blazer, were flipped by the FBI -- was clean, but Webb? He was touted as the reformer, the proponent of transparency,
the head of FIFA's audit committee, the man who was going to clean up racism and discrimination in soccer. He had all the credentials to one day succeed Blatter as FIFA president.
But that didn't seem to be important to Webb. By the end of 2013, his second year in charge of Concacaf, Webb had brought Traffic, which had for more than 20 years been paying out millions in kickbacks, back into the fold as Concacaf's commercial agency and began carving up events like World Cup qualifying, the Gold Cup and Concacaf Champions League, striking three deals with Traffic that netted him more than $6 million in bribes.
Now one of 11 FIFA officials provisionally suspended in the aftermath of Wednesday's indictment, Webb apparently went out of his way to conceal the payments, using Costas Takkas, a soccer crony from the Cayman Islands, as an intermediary. On one occasion, funds were transferred through Takkas, now given the title of Concacaf attache, to an account in the name of a swimming pool contractor, who was building a pool for Webb in Blairsville, Georgia.
We could not make this stuff up.
Webb was taken away by Swiss police from the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich on Wednesday. It is not clear what are his whereabouts and whether he is fighting extradition back to the United States. But it's clear his indictment could have wide-ranging repercussions.
Concacaf. The raid by Swiss police in Zurich was followed by a raid on Concacaf offices in Miami later in the day. Concacaf has managed to have been disgraced by two generations of leadership. All in four years. Warner and Blazer, his general secretary, in 2011. And Webb and Enrique Sanz, hired as Blazer's replacement from Traffic in 2013 and the unindicted "co-conspirator No. 4" in the Federal indictment, now.
The former regime left Concacaf's finances in a mess, the organization having its tax-exempt status revoked and in danger of owing the IRS millions. It's not clear what shape Concacaf's finances are in today. All we know is it has outstanding commercial rights deals with Traffic for Concacaf events and Datisa for next year's Copa Centenario to the tune of millions of dollars. Will they ever pay up?
Traffic's owner, Jose Hawilla, copped a plea in December, agreeing to forfeit $151 million. Two Traffic firms pled guilty two weeks ago to wire fraud conspiracy. And four executives associated with Datisa's partners were indicted in a $110 million scheme to pay out bribes to the presidents of the 10 Conmebol federations for the rights to the next four Copa Americas. Just a little trouble.
Oh, and Concacaf has the little matter of organizing the Gold Cup that starts in less than six weeks.
2016 Copa Centenario. Sentimentality had nothing to do with next year's Copa America, organized in the United
States to celebrate the tournament's 100th anniversary. It was the masterpiece of a grand scheme -- the proverbial criminal enterprise -- to line the pockets of the presidents of the 10 Conmebol
federations, each getting a share based on the importance of the federation.
The Copa Centenario was going to be so lucrative that three rival agencies, Traffic among them, banded together to form Datisa and agreed to pay out $77.5 million to Conmebol and $35 million to Concacaf for commercial rights -- and $30 million in bribes.
The Copa Centenario is being billed as the biggest soccer event to come to the United States since the 1994 World Cup. Several dozen cities were in the process of submitting bids to host matches. Will it ever be played? That's hard to imagine now.
2026 World Cup. Where Webb's seeming fall could really hurt concerns the race for the 2026 World Cup. He has been outspoken that it's Concacaf's turn -- read that the USA's turn -- to host the 2026 World Cup after Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022.
On Monday, FIFA issued a statement that the executive committee had approved the framework for the bidding process. Blatter had previously supported a move to limit bidders to those countries from confederations where the last two World Cup had not been played. If approved, that would eliminate from the 2026 race countries from Europe and Asia, in particular the only country against which the USA would be the heavy underdog: China.
Blatter might want a USA 2026 World Cup. And FIFA's 209 members might want a USA 2026 World Cup -- they, not the executive committee, will decide in May 2017. But it remains to be seen if the USA wants the USA to host the World Cup any time soon.
Hosting the World Cup would require the U.S. government to reach an agreement with FIFA on a host of issues -- issues that have often been settled to FIFA's benefit at past tournaments. That reluctance on the part of the U.S. government to deal with FIFA was one of the unspoken issues with the USA's 2022 bid. And that was in good days when Blatter and Warner got to cozy up with Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
U.S. lawmakers won't have much time for FIFA after Webb and Company rubbed its already low reputation into the ground.