PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Former FIFA strongman Jack Warner says he is “comforted” by the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to squash FIFA’s life ban on ex-presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam, but says he will stay away from the sport for as long as Sepp Blatter remained in charge of football’s world governing body.
CAS ruled Thursday that there was insufficient evidence to uphold the ban imposed by FIFA’s ethics committee for Bin Hammam’s alleged role in last year’s cash-for-votes scandal involving the Caribbean Football Union.
A three-man panel comprising president Jose Maria Alonso, Philippe Sands QC and Romano Subiotto QC said Hammam’s situation was one of “case not proven, coupled with concern on the part of the Panel that the FIFA investigation was not complete or comprehensive enough to fill the gaps in the record.”
Warner, who was also implicated in the controversy, quit at the height of the scandal and had all corruption charges against him dropped.
“If a prosecutor or claimant cannot offer uncontestable evidence that stands up to cross-examination and judicial challenge, no court can, and no court must convict,” said Warner, a government minister here.
“What CAS outlined in its judgement is that it could not find Mohamed bin Hammam guilty of any wrongdoing, simply because evidence was lacking to do so.
“It is precisely for these reasons that I stepped down from football last year because I would not subject myself to the nastiness of a process by which I would have been convicted before even one day in open court.”
Both Warner and Bin Hammam were accused of attempting to bribe CFU members for their votes with cash inducements of US $40,000 at a meeting here in May last year ahead of the June 1 FIFA elections were Hammam was up against the incumbent Blatter.
Former general secretary Chuck Blatter blew the whistle on the meeting with FIFA’s ethics committee moving swiftly to suspend both Warner and Hammam pending an investigation.
While Warner resigned as a FIFA vice-president and all his regional posts, Hammam faced the charges and was found guilty of corruption and banned for life.
Hammam, who was also dumped as Asian football president, maintained his innocence and subsequently appealed to CAS last November.
“I waited a little more than a year for this day and now I feel, not only in a sense relieved, but I feel comforted,” said Warner said, who contended had he not resigned his posts with FIFA that he also would have been found not guilty by CAS.
“But I was not prepared to go through this charade. I felt, therefore, the best course was to leave FIFA alone. Look, I don’t even want to go close to FIFA anymore. They send magazines; I don’t even read them. I want nothing to do with them.”
He pointed out that FIFA had never lost a disciplinary hearing and criticised Blatter for influencing the work of the ethics committee.
Warner also said he had been once close to Blatter but had been punished for daring to oppose the Swiss administrator.
“When you check that the head of FIFA Ethics Committee is Blatter’s good friend and all of them who he hand-picked imposed a ban for life. Three qualified judges said it was not so,” he said.
“The crime committed in Blatter’s eyes was that an opponent (Bin Hammam) was going against him to change the structure of FIFA. That is why I opposed Blatter in the election. I was his right-hand man until I said enough was enough.”
Until last year, Warner was the most powerful man in football in the Caribbean, having served as CFU president and head of CONCACAF, the continental governing body for football in North, Central American and Caribbean.
He said even in the wake of the latest developments, he had no intentions of returning to football administration.
“I left football. I dust my feet off football a year ago and that is a permanent position,” he stressed.
“I want nothing from football and I do not expect to go back to football in the long term or the short term.” (CMC)