The devil was very much in the detail.
Amid the announcement of Canada’s Victor Montagliani being appointed as the leader of CONCACAF’s new dawn following too many years of scandal and disgrace, a development revealed two days previously signalled a real changing of the guard.
Naturally, seeing the Canadian become the first non-Caribbean to hold the post since 1969 was a seismic shift of its own.
No longer is the organisation which effectively governs football in the United States, Mexico and Central America powered by crooks and wrongdoers in the Caribbean.
Jack Warner (below), the notorious Trinidadian, built CONCACAF before shamelessly tearing down its walls from within.
With the FBI’s investigation into the FIFA scandal on-going and involving Jeffrey Webb, Warner’s heir, to have the power base in North America suits authorities.
Yet when it was announced their global sponsorship rights had been flogged to Major League Soccer’s commercial wing Soccer United Marketing (SUM), everything dramatically turned full circle towards the United States.
The SUM deal for CONCACAF rights extends until the end of 2021. In the past, marketing company Traffic Sports, based in Miami but Brazilian owned, had the contract. Millions of dollars were tied in with bribes, back slaps and backhanders.
Former Traffic executive Enrique Sanz was a close confidante of Webb and went on to become his No2. Ever since the FBI raids in Switzerland last May, the business collapsed.
The dodgy links had to be expunged. Though for MLS and commissioner Don Garber to pick up the pieces is a serious – and surprising – coup for the game here.
US Soccer chief Sunil Gulati has been a fervent backer of Montagliani and helped push through the SUM deal – yet, as ever in the murky world of football governance, it has left many within the game questioning its validity.
People in the Caribbean fear a stitch up. Suspicions were already raised when Gordon Derrick, head of the Caribbean Football Union, was barred from running for president having failed an integrity check.
In a year we will have a CONCACAF to be proud of – Victor Montagliani
Caribbean nations have the majority in CONCACAF elections. They wanted Derrick as president.
FIFA clearly wanted the power torn from Warner’s backyard once and for all.
And now this. Imagine the Premier League signing a deal to own the sponsorship rights of the UEFA Champions League. That’s effectively what’s happened with this deal for MLS.
“We think it was a carve up,” a well-placed Caribbean source told Sport360.
“FIFA wanted the crooked North Americans to get a chance after the crooked Caribbean administrators had their go. And FIFA did it in a crooked way.”
Bermuda’s Larry Mussenden, a lawyer who chairs FIFA’s appeals committee, won 16 votes. It wasn’t enough to trump Montagliani’s 25 leaving the path clear for his anointment.
Ever since Webb’s arrest, the organisation, under FIFA’s orders, has been working feverishly to clean up its act. Zero tolerance measures have been brought in to combat corruption. Offices created in the Cayman Islands under Webb’s behest have been closed.
Yet once Montagliani’s feet are firmly under the table, Garber will no doubt be bending his ear about matters on the pitch.
Although a nice idea in principle, a Champions League competition pitting the winners of CONCACAF’s various championships is seen more as an afterthought than something tangible and exciting.
MLS teams moan about their schedules being thrown into disarray so expect a raft of changes moving forward.
“We are confident that SUM’s global network and expertise will play a vital role in negotiating innovative sponsorship opportunities for our tournaments and events,” said CONCACAF acting general secretary Ted Howard.
“The cleaning up will not happen in a couple of days,” said Montagliani.
“In a year we will have a CONCACAF to be proud of.”