Blazer to Step Down in December

Claus-like figure Chuck Blazer, who has been CONCACAF’s general secretary since 1990, announced yesterday that he will resign his post at the end of 2011.

Blazer has been involved with U.S. Soccer since the mid-1980s, when he was in charge of the U.S. national teams. (He launched the women’s U.S. national team that year.)

In his 21 years with CONCACAF, he is credited with boosting the organization’s revenues from $140,000 to $40 million, according to Soccer America.

He started the Gold Cup, the regional tournament contested every two years, and he founded the CONCACAF Champions League, the regional club championship whose winner qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup.

In May of 2011 Blazer made headlines by accusing his former boss, ex-CONCACAF president Jack Warner, and former Asian confederation head Mohamed bin Hammam, of attempting to bribe numerous Caribbean delegates to vote for bin Hamman in the FIFA presidential election.

Blazer’s accusations set off a farcical chain of events in which Warner’s interim successor, Lisle Austin, attempted to fire Blazer and was subsequently suspended by CONCACAF’s executive committee.

In Warner’s and Austin’s world—which has apparently sent an envoy to Blazer’s Wikipedia page—the controversy continues. But for most U.S. soccer types, the scandal has been put to bed and now is a time for reflecting on Blazer’s impact—as Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy does here—and speculating about his future.

In addition to his regional position, Blazer is a member of FIFA’s executive committee, a post he will retain at least until his current term ends in 2013.

According to the AP, Blazer said he would entertain the idea of working for a club, but had no comment “on the possibility that he could join one of the groups bidding for Major League Soccer’s 20th team, which MLS would like to place in the New York area as a rival to the Red Bulls.”

The current leader among those groups is the one that bought the rights to the New York Cosmos name and has installed Eric Cantona and Cobi Jones as executives.

Quote of the Day

Ryan Toohey, spokesman for recently suspended interim CONCACAF president Lisle Austin (above), on reports that FIFA had extended Austin’s ban worldwide:

“Mr. Austin has not been notified of any action by FIFA regarding any suspension. There is no existing suspension so there is nothing to extend. Lisle Austin remains acting president of CONCACAF, and has urged FIFA to intervene and resolve these so-called leadership questions.”

When last we left this spellbinding tale, Austin had fired CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer, only to see Blazer immediately reinstated by the confederation’s Executive Committee. The committee then suspended Austin, and installed Honduras’s Alfredo Hawit as acting president of CONCACAF.

That’s where we stand now (well, all of us outside Austin’s camp). But there are sure to be further twists in the tale before the Gold Cup final on June 25.

FIFA Farce, Day 4: Blazer Fired, Unfired

Oh, it's on....

CONCACAF appointed an interim president in the wake of Jack Warner’s recent suspension, and that fella—who hails from Barbados and is called Lisle Austin—took it upon himself yesterday to “fire” Chuck Blazer, the American general secretary of CONCACAF who made allegations of bribery against Warner and former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam.

Austin faxed a dismissal letter to Blazer’s Zurich hotel room, citing “inexcusable” conduct and “a gross misconduct of duty and of judgment” as reasons for the action.

Within hours, though, CONCACAF called Austin’s play an “unauthorized declaration” and published the following statement on its website:

“This attempted action was taken without any authority. Under the CONCACAF Statutes, jurisdiction over the General Secretary rests solely with the CONCACAF Executive Committee, which has taken no action. Further, a majority of the Executive Committee Members have advised Mr. Austin that he does not have the authority to take such action.

“Chuck Blazer continues as CONCACAF General Secretary and with the full authority of his office. The Confederation continues its normal operations including the Gold Cup commencing on June 5th at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.”

Today, Austin sowed further confusion by firing back, through Warner’s media service in Port of Spain, Trinidad, with the following:

“The statement released by the CONCACAF Media Department last night as it relates to the status of the former General Secretary Chuck Blazer are not the official views of CONCACAF.

“This is yet another blatant disregard for process and procedure by the former staff member.”

Austin went on to imply that Blazer himself published the statement on CONCACAF’s website, since he “was [is?] one of the administrators of the servers used by the CONCACAF department and has access to it and presently still has access to all of the Confederation’s online service.”

Here’s an interesting compare-and-contrast exercise: the story as reported in Warner’s home country, in the Trinidad Express, versus The New York Times account.

CONCACAF’s premier tournament, the Gold Cup, kicks off on Saturday, and amid all the uncertainty, one thing’s for sure: The final trophy presentation is going to be very interesting.

Both Warner and Sepp Blatter were present for the 2009 edition.

Speaking of Blatter, see here for the latest on today’s presidential election.

Only In FIFA: Presidential Candidate To Face Ethics Investigation Just Three Days Before Presidential Election

In light of allegations made yesterday by FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer (left, apparently relaxing in Margaritaville), soccer’s world governing body has called presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam and Vice President Jack Warner to appear before its ethics panel on Sunday.

The FIFA presidential election, between Bin Hammam and incumbent Sepp Blatter, is scheduled for next Wednesday in Zurich.

Bin Hammam and Warner will face allegations of bribery linked to the June 1 election. The fact that the allegations come from Blazer—a fellow FIFA ExCo member and a colleague of Warner’s in CONCACAF (he’s general secretary; Warner is President)—make them unprecedented.

Warner and Bin Hammam both denied the allegations, with Bin Hammam calling them “little more than a tactic” from his opponent, Blatter.

For more on this, check here, here, and here—and of course, stay tuned. It should be an interesting next several days.