In the past six months, many soccer officials may have regretted having their photograph taken with Chuck Blazer during the decades where he worked hand-in-hand with some of the biggest names in the business. At the time, few would have expected Blazer to become an informant to help bring down many officials within CONCACAF and FIFA. And few may have known that the photographs of them with Blazer would be plastered over his personal blog, which serves as a reminder of how cozy of a relationship he had with many people including USSF President Sunil Gulati and MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
While there’s no evidence that Gulati was aware of Blazer and fellow CONCACAF officials (as well as Traffic Sports) taking bribes, there are so many questions about their relationship — all of which have gone unanswered after Gulati conveniently refused to appear in front of a US Senate Hearing while the US soccer media have been silent on the issue.
Sports Illustrated journalist Liviu Bird couldn’t have put it better:
Would be quite shocking, with how Blazer helped SUM get World Cup television rights, if nobody in MLS or USSF had inkling of his corruption.
— Liviu Bird (@liviubird) July 15, 2015
Here’s a timeline of some of the interesting connections between Blazer and USSF/SUM over the years:
Chuck Blazer received a round from MLS Commissioner Don Garber and MLS owners Philip Anschutz, Bob Kraft, Tim Leiweke and Clark Hunt at the MLS board of governors meeting for his role in convincing FIFA to take the US TV rights away from NBC for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and to give them to SUM (to sell to ESPN and Univision) because ESPN/Univision would televise MLS and USMNT games in return.
That same year, Chuck Blazer received the MLS Commissioner’s Award from Garber. At the time, Garber is quoted as saying:
“Chuck is one of the most important people in the history of soccer in this country. Those in the soccer business know how important he is to the development of this sport and management of this sport throughout North America. Not every American knows that the man behind the scenes pushing this sport is Chuck and for that he is very worthy of being recognized by MLS and by our ownership.”
“His support for us started long before his support on television. It’s far deeper than that. It’s not about one specific thing, it’s about what influence he’s had over the last 10 years.
“He’s just unbelievably important to where we are today and where we’re going to be in the future.”
In his personal blog, Chuck Blazer states that “Sunil Gulati goes back with me to the days of running State select programs a quarter century ago.”
USSF President Sunil Gulati said this about Blazer: “If we have to go to the mat on something, Chuck’s where we go. The natural avenue to FIFA is through CONCACAF and that means Chuck.”
Gulati claims he knew nothing about the staggering examples of improper behavior despite the two of them having worked closely together, and Gulati-Blazer being best friends for years.
In 2013, Blazer made a plea bargain with the FBI, and admitted he took bribes over the 1998 and 2010 World Cups.
Gulati declines an invitation to speak to a US Senate Hearing on corruption in soccer, and sends his assistant Dan Flynn (pictured above) instead. Flynn’s words, body language and unconvincing responses put US Soccer Federation in a very uncomfortable light.
In July, investigative reporter Andrew Jennings, who helped bring down Sepp Blatter from office, calls for a revolution among soccer fans in the US to oust Sunil Gulati from office.
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