TORONTO — The head of the Canadian Soccer Association is running for president of CONCACAF, the scandal-ridden governing body of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Victor Montagliani is looking to clean up CONCACAF, whose last three presidents have been caught up in FIFA’s corruption scandal. He says the need for reform is worldwide.
"Like anything there’s a lot of really good people in the game," he said in interview. "But I think it’s time for maybe the silent majority to not be silent any more and I consider myself part of that. And to take the challenge to bring the game back what we all as fans love it for. I think the fans deserve that."
CONCACAF’s leadership has been repeatedly tarnished in recent months.
Interim CONCACAF president Alfredo Hawit of Honduras was arrested Dec. 3 in Switzerland. Former presidents Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago were charged earlier.
Extradited to the U.S., Hawit has pleaded not guilty to charges with obstructing justice, wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, money-laundering, and money-laundering conspiracy.
Prosecutors allege that he and other top CONCACAF officials, in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, awarded marketing rights to the Gold Cup and other events.
Webb pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy. He agreed to forfeit more than US$6.7 million.
Warner was indicted last May on counts of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy and money laundering.
"The events have sullied our sport and badly undermined the public’s trust in football’s governing bodies," Montagliani wrote in an open letter Monday declaring his candidacy. "If football is deserving of the devotion of such a large swath of the world’s population, then it needs to be governed in a principled and professional way that, above all else, protects the integrity of the game."
"I believe my unique journey in football as a player, administrator, and executive has prepared me particularly well to lead CONCACAF at this important moment," he added.
In the wake of Hawit’s arrest, CONCACAF’s executive committee opted not to appoint another interim president. Instead the confederation members will elected a new president May 12 in Mexico City, before the FIFA Congress.
Guyana’s Mark Rodrigues and Bermuda Football president Larry Mussenden have already declared their candidacy for CONCACAF’s top job.
Gordon (Banks) Derrick, general secretary of the Antigua & Barbuda Football Association and president of the Caribbean Football Union, is also running, according to Antigua’s Daily Observer newspaper.
The U.S. is likely to support Montagliani, whose task will be to convince the Caribbean which carries 31 of the 41 votes in the region.
CONCACAF is one of six FIFA confederations. Landing the top job would doubtless aid Canada in its bid to host a men’s World Cup.
In fact, Montagliani cites "devising a strategy to ensure the 2026 World Cup is hosted in the CONCACAF region" as one of the key challenges facing the confederation in the next four years.
Other issues include creating more opportunities to play in professional environments and to promote women’s soccer in the region.
Montagliani was named to a special CONCACAF committee last year charged with "evaluating and sustaining" all of the confederation’s business operations of the wake of FIFA’s mushrooming corruption scandal.
He was elected president of the CSA in 2012. He was a CSA vice-president for three terms, and has been a member of its executive committee since 2005.
The native of Burnaby, B.C., was appointed to FIFA’s legal committee in 2012.
CONCACAF will consider a reform package at an extraordinary congress in Zurich on Feb. 25.