Commentary

Chuck Blazer dies at age of 72

Chuck Blazer, the larger-than-life American soccer executive who became the symbol of the excesses in international soccer, died on Wednesday at the age of 72. Before he became a whistleblower and the center of attention of the Federal investigation that resulted in indictments against dozens of soccer and marketing executives, Blazer had been highly influential in U.S. Soccer and FIFA.

Blazer got his start as an administrator while his son played soccer in the New York area in the late 1970s and he quickly rose through the youth soccer ranks, becoming U.S. Soccer executive vice president in 1984. He oversaw the national team program and started the women's program, which played its first international matches in 1985.

He became general secretary of tiny Concacaf in 1990 after engineering the election of Trinidadian Jack Warner as president. For more than 20 years, Blazer -- who became known as Mr. Ten Percent -- and Warner ran Concacaf as their own fiefdom, both becoming immensely rich off shady deals they conjured up. Blazer operated out of an office and apartment in New York's Trump Tower.

Blazer followed Warner to FIFA's executive committee in 1996 and became highly influential in shaping FIFA's marketing and television business. But the tenure of both Blazer and Warner at FIFA will be remembered for moneys they took from federations seeking World Cup hosting rights.

Blazer was wined and dined throughout the world, and his Travels with Chuck Blazer and his Friends (among them Vladimir Putin) gave rare insights into the world of FIFA VIPs. The blog showed off Blazer's tech-savvy, which put him light years ahead of his fellow FIFA executives.

In his early years at Concacaf, he toured the Caribbean, setting up tiny federations with computers and AOL accounts and teaching their staffs how to get online and check emails from the confederations headquarters.

It was a Warner deal with a fellow executive committee member, Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam, that triggered the split-up of Blazer and Warner in 2011. Warner was caught handing out envelopes with $40,000 in cash to the same Caribbean members Blazer had gotten online. Blazer told FIFA, and the jib was up.

By the end of 2011, Blazer had began secretly cooperating with FBI and IRS investigators. In 2013, he secretly pleaded guilty in Federal court to 10 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. He also forfeited $1.9 million and agreed to forfeit a second amount.

"Chuck hoped to help bring transparency, accountability and fair play to Concacaf, FIFA and soccer as a whole," his lawyers said in a statement. "Chuck also accepted responsibility for his own conduct by pleading guilty and owning up to his mistakes. Chuck felt profound sorrow and regret for his actions."

It wasn't until May 2015 when Swiss police at the behest of Federal authorities raided a Zurich hotel on the eve of the FIFA Congress and Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced warrants against 14 individuals that Blazer's plea became known.

Nine men were arrested at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich. Warner was in Trinidad & Tobago, where he remains free two years later fighting extradition.

The day of the arrests Blazer was in a New York hospital fighting cancer.

2 comments about "Chuck Blazer dies at age of 72".
  1. John Mcdermott, July 13, 2017 at 2:31 a.m.

    A man both loved and despised by many. The game was very, very good to him. I'm not sure how good he was for the game. His legacy will be one of greed, corruption and, ultimately, betrayal. He fit right in with the likes of Teixeira, Leoz, Grondona and all the other bad actors in the corrupt culture of FIFA, but most of all with his chief partner-in-crime, the appalling Jack Warner, who is still at large.

  2. Ric Fonseca, July 13, 2017 at 2:49 a.m.

    I suppose I can say that I was one of the many who met Chuck. It happened during WCUSA 1994, when he and several others came to Los Angeles to do what ever they came to do. I was the "designated" WC USA 1994 "Historian" and met many a notables, including then a fledgling Sunil Gulati, et al, and even was lucky to catch a ride with Mr. Blazer from the WC headquarters in Century City to someplace downtown. We chatted during the trip, about nothing so much of consequential matters, just some soccer chit-chat, shook hands an parted ways. I then met him again at the Las Vegas WC Draw, in December '93, had a good laugh about the overall meeting og the soccer gliteratii, and parted ways. I subsequently saw him again at the post WC USA US Soccer AGM in San Diego, and had another good chat about nothing in particular, but never would I have thought that he would rise so high to an ignominious position. Other than being, I suppose I could say, not surprised at his meteoric rise in CONCACAF, I can say that he was, at least with me, a giant of a gentleman, non-assuming and - again, with me - down to earth. RIP mi amigo!

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