It’s difficult to conceive that US Soccer President Sunil Gulati and USSF CEO Flynn had no inkling of CONCACAF corruption. Gulati regularly would have been in contact with Blazer, Warner and Jeffrey Webb, who succeeded Jack Warner as CONCACAF President.
In the meantime, CONCACAF’s dirty deals were mostly being hatched on American soil, with US Soccer at least in theory a direct beneficiary. Traffic Sports’ involvement in securing the Copa America 2016 for the USA and the decision to always hold the tournament on American soil certainly has not hurt the performances or marketability of the US Men’s National Team.
Both Jeffrey Webb and former Traffic Sports USA President Aaron Davidson have pled not guilty to the charges brought against them by Federal prosecutors. But it seems apparent both will attempt to make some sort of plea deal and could have incriminating information about US Soccer officials, maybe even including Flynn or Gulati.
In their plea deals, it’s quite possible that Webb and Davidson will try to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the prosecutors in an attempt to save themselves.
Of course this is speculation, but British journalist Andrew Jennings — who also testified in front of the Senate hearing last week — told Soccer Morning’s Jason Davis on Monday that “Gulati doesn’t want to answer questions about the lifestyle he has,” and that the US Soccer President was used doing things “the Sepp Blatter way.”
Jennings’ reporting about FIFA, though seemingly sensational, proved to be on the money. Let us hope for the sake of US Soccer, his instincts are off base this time. But given Jennings’ track record, clearly there will be some unease around Soccer House and the American soccer community in the coming weeks and months.
US Soccer is basking in a summer of on-field glory. After capturing the Women’s World Cup, the US men’s team is poised to repeat as continental champions in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. That event, which is essentially a made-for-TV tournament, was at the center of much of the FIFA corruption scandal. The epicenter of the scandal that has engulfed the sport and been a worldwide media sensation was not in Zurich, but in fact on American soil in the offices of CONCACAF in New York and Miami.
Last week, the US Senate panel hearing discussed the FIFA scandal and what US Soccer knew about the corruption in CONCACAF and FIFA. US Soccer President Sunil Gulati elected not to attend. Some have excused Gulati’s absence, which came just ten days after the USA’s triumph in the Women’s World Cup Final and right in the middle of the Gold Cup. In Gulati’s place, Flynn attended the hearing and looked uncomfortable and flustered. He also stated that “we (US Soccer) knew nothing about corruption at CONCACAF.”
Perhaps had the US Senators sitting on the subcommittee been fully briefed on the culture within the world of North American soccer, they would found this claim absolutely incredible. The reality is that whispers of Jack Warner’s corruption and that of Chuck Blazer were ever-present as early as the late 1990’s and were an accepted reality by 2006. By the time the US was bidding on the rights to host the 2022 World Cup, whispers were abound that Chuck Blazer’s massive influence with Sepp Blatter and FIFA might help tip the balance toward the American bid.
Working at the NASL, we had heard rumors that Blazer’s influence within FIFA had helped MLS stave off any opposition within the global game to its single-entity structure and the summer calendar. For the record, I believe both should be permissible but the fact is they were both contrary to FIFA statutes and mandates. The implication was that Blazer’s influence within FIFA allowed MLS the breathing room it needed to do what it wanted whether they were in line with the rest of international game or not.
Aaron Davidson’s federal trial has been adjourned until September 18. Jeffrey Webb is currently out on bond and under house arrest in Manhattan awaiting the next phase of legal proceedings.
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