For all his well-known capacity to ‘soak up’ and brush aside criticism of the administration of football in Guyana during his twenty-odd year tenure as President of the Guyana Football Federation, Colin Klass must surely be more than a little bit ‘jittery’ about what could lie ahead as FIFA takes unerring aim at the role which they now appear to believe that affiliates of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) played in the so-called cash-for-votes scandal that has already seen the resignation of former FIFA Vice President Austin “Jack” Warner from football and the disgracing and booting out of football of the Quatari official Mohamed bin Hanman.
FIFA has been blunt in its assertion that the CFU delegates knew more than they have been telling about exactly what went on at the May 10-11 meeting in Trinidad and Tobago. The Organization has demanded that the CFU officials “provide all relevant information within forty eight hours.” That means that they must say what they know about the cash-for-votes scandal and, moreover, the demand has been attended by an implied threat that to fail to comply would, in itself, be deemed to be an offence and that delinquents could face the wrath of international football’s governing body. In essence, the CFU affiliates are wedged between a rock and a hard place. There is nowhere to hide. The kind of mixed signals and evasiveness which, up until now, have characterized the various responses from regional football officials to the cash-for-votes allegation will not ‘wash’ now that FIFA has decided to put the boot in.
Apart from Mr. Klass going on record to say that he was not part of any cash-for-votes skullduggery nor, for that matter, is he aware that any such occurrence took place, the Guyana Football Federation has maintained a more-or-less stony silence on the matter. Over the years the Federation has thrived on seeking to keep the media at bay whenever storm clouds have gathered over its head, though conversations with some officials who asked not to be quoted suggest that this time around there is general nervousness about the creeping FIFA enquiry.
What Klass has already said about the matter means, presumably, that he will be sticking to his story which would then place FIFA in a position where it will then to seek to determine the veracity of what he has said. And even if Klass’ honesty were to turn out not to be in question there are those who would argue that it defies belief that he would not have known what went on in Port—Of-Spain. So that one way or another it would be interesting to know exactly what the GFF plans to say to FIFA in respond to a demand that they communicate with the governing body by today. In fact, Klass himself could be in hot water with FIFA even if it were definitively determined that he not benefit from the bin Hanman handout, that is, if it is determined that he knew what was happening. This newspaper has already quoted testimony given by Bahamas Vice President Fred Lunn which strongly suggests that Klass may not have been altogether unaware of exactly what was going on in Trinidad and Lunn’s remark is likely to be noted by FIFA during its investigations.
These whole affair constitutes a crisis for Klass and his CFU colleagues in the region not only because there is now no longer any ‘Jack’ Warner to navigate them out of what is likely to be the choppy waters of a FIFA enquiry but also because it is into beyond the realm of possibility that such skeletons as may come out of the Federations of the various closets of the respective CFU affiliates may escalate into wider FIFA enquiries into the state of football in the region.
This is where the Guyana Football Federation and Klass may have much to worry about. The slow pace of the advancement of the local GOAL project has been the subject of much criticism and even Warner himself, in his capacity as head of the CFU has expressed disappointment over the slow pace of the project in Guyana.
At the same time it is widely believed that Warner, as a FIFA Vice President, had used his office to spare the region blushes associated with the maladministration of football and the GOAL project is believed to be a primary example of the inefficient administration of football in Guyana. What could also arise, if FIFA chooses to go that route, That apart, it is not inconceivable that a FIFA enquiry could also seek to probe the administration of its finances – reportedly US$250,000.00 a year allocated to the GFF.
So that whatever happens it would appear that Klass’ hold on the presidency of the Federation may well have become decidedly tenuous, virtually overnight, except “Jack” Warner’s threatened football tsunami suddenly changes direction.