Canadian soccer boss Victor Montagliani has already had a hand in helping clean up FIFA and will continue to wield a big shovel in his new role as CONCACAF president.
The 50-year-old from Vancouver beat Bermuda Football Association president Larry Mussenden 25-16 Thursday in a vote to oversee the scandal-ridden soccer confederation that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
"Our members have voted in favour of reform, and I am committed to ensuring CONCACAF rebuilds its credibility with the football world and to position and ready the organization to deal effectively with the evolving global game," Montagliani said in a statement.
Still one of the first questions he faced at his opening news conference after Thursday’s vote in Mexico City, where the FIFA Congress opens Friday, was what he would be do if a business associate/friend wanted to give him a Corvette.
Of CONCACAF’s three previous presidents, two are awaiting sentencing and a third is fighting extradition on charges arising from the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into corruption in world football.
Montagliani, acclaimed last Saturday for a second four-year term as president of the Canadian Soccer Association, already had good ties with FIFA and Thursday’s election win moves him further into world soccer’s inner circle. CONCACAF’s president is automatically a FIFA vice-president and member of FIFA’s ruling executive committee, which is being renamed the FIFA council.
He confirmed that he will not see out his term as CSA president, saying CONCACAF statutes mandate he must step down as association head within a year.
Montagliani served as the CONCACAF representative on the FIFA reform panel that helped rewrite the governing body’s rules. He was also part of a special committee tasked with going over the confederation’s business operations in the wake of the scandal.
He says a lot of the past misbehaviour happened in side deals done with third-parties outside the official office of CONCACAF.
A new system of financial checks and balances within CONCACAF is vastly improved, he added.
"We’ve got to hope for the best in people and their integrity," he said in an interview. "But I think we’ve started to put in mechanisms where the likelihood of these things happening in the future is slim and none
Montagliani, who speaks English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, says he met with 33 or 34 of the 41 CONCACAF members during his election campaign.
"A lot of people were ready for a new era in our region and really choosing people not based on where they lived but choosing people who are the best for the job."
Tricia Smith, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, welcomed Montagliani’s appointment saying the "well-deserved" election victory was the result of his "multi-layered platform of reform."
Canadian women’s captain Christine Sinclair sent "massive congrats" via Twittter. "Moving the game in the right direction," she added.
Montagliani said he will not be moving to Miami where the confederation headquarters are. "I’ll have 41 offices," he said, referring to the number of CONCACAF members.
The new CONCACAF president wants to bring the 2026 men’s World Cup to the region, with Canada looking to be part of a "collaborative strategy," likely with Mexico and the U.S.
"I think it’s very realistic," he said of a CONCACAF bid.
Montagliani’s immediate priority is ensuring the Centennial Copa America runs smoothly in the United States next month. Montagliani has also pledged to resurrect a Caribbean league and tackle infrastructure challenges in Central America.
CONCACAF, along with the South American confederation, had US$10 million of funding from FIFA halted.
FIFA has agreed to free the funds but Montagliani now has to get it released by convincing the global body that CONCACAF has completely cleaned up its act and won’t be charged as an entity by U.S. authorities.
Jeffrey Webb, a Cayman Islands banker, was booted out of office after being arrested last May and his interim successor, Honduran lawyer Alfredo Hawit, was also indicted in December. They have both pleaded guilty in the U.S. and are awaiting sentencing.
Jack Warner, the president from 1990 to 2011, has also been indicted but he is still fighting extradition from Trinidad and Tobago.
"Is it our last chance? I’m not sure … I think we’re lucky we’ve gotten the chances we’ve got so we have to take advantage of that," Montagliani told his news conference.
In other votes at the CONCACAF Congress on Thursday, Cuban federation president Luis Hernandez and Sonia Bien-Aime, head of the Turks and Caicos federation, won votes for seats on the FIFA’s new-look council.
Before being elected CSA president in May 2012, Montagliani was president of the British Columbia Soccer Association and vice-president of the CSA from 2005-2012.