CONCACAF general secretary, nemesis of Mohammed Bin Hammam, and tabloid story-filler Chuck Blazer announced today he would step down from his role in the soccer federation at the end of the year. Blazer had been involved in CONCACAF’s leadership for two decades and his resignation is certainly the end of an era. He will, however, keep his FIFA executive committee spot, according to Bloomberg, but has not decided if he will run for reelection in 2013.
“My passion for soccer is undiminished and it is time for me to explore new challenges within this wonderful sport,” he said in a CONCACAF statement. “Running a governing body has been an incredibly fulfilling job, but there are so many other areas of the sport where as a senior executive, I will make a great impact.”
CONCACAF has not announced who will replaced Blazer but the resignation comes after a tumultuous few months. As we reported on this site in August, Blazer was under investigation by the FBI for a variety of alleged tax evasions and failures to report income. This of course came after Blazer’s role as a whistle blower when in June he accused Bin Hammam and then-CONCACAF President Jack Warner of colluding to buy votes from the Caribbean Football Union for the former’s FIFA presidential campaign. In the aftermath, Lisle Austin of Barbados tried to force Blazer’s removal from the soccer governing body, a move that was later overturned.
I have no doubt Blazer will continue to lurk in the North American soccer landscape, no doubt finding a comfortable place to land and maintain his lifestyle. If you think this is the last we’ve heard of him, you will be sorely mistaken. That said, this is the end of an era for CONCACAF. The confederation saw some massive financial gains under Blazer and an increase in the prestige of its members, mostly driven by the successes of the U.S. and Mexico. Blazer also was key in securing ESPN’s bid for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, which has helped drive some growth in soccer viewership in the U.S. as well as a healthy American audience for last year’s World Cup.
However, this is a prime opportunity for CONCACAF to turn the page on this year’s terrible scandals and rebuild itself. The confederation has at least two top-rate soccer federations (Mexico and, yes, the U.S.) as well as some smaller soccer associations that can be legitimately be described as up-and-coming. Two countries have already hosted World Cups and a third is a prime destination for a future one (Canada). In short, while CONCACAF will never be UEFA, it has a chance to be one of the better confederations in FIFA. Failure to enact some ethics reforms and refocus its priorities will lead to it be passed by the AFC and CAF.