Soccer

Warner claims $6M FIFA gift was to back Blatter

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GENEVA (AP)

Disgraced former football official Jack Warner claims FIFA gave him a gift of $6 million toward a training center in Trinidad to support Sepp Blatter's first election as president in 1998.

Warner says a May 1998 deal with then-FIFA President Joao Havelange ensured total backing from the CONCACAF region for Blatter in what shaped as a tight contest against Lennart Johansson weeks later.

''Blatter would never have seen the light of day as president of FIFA'' without 30 CONCACAF votes, Warner said in a speech distributed to international media Friday.

It's the latest attack on FIFA since Warner promised a ''tsunami'' of revelations after the then-FIFA vice president was implicated in a bribery scandal while opposing Blatter's latest election two years ago.

Warner's claim details his controversial ownership of the Trinidad center of excellence, now valued at $22.5 million, which led an integrity panel last week to accuse him of fraudulently managing the body running football in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Warner hit back late Thursday in a speech to his Trinidad constituents, days after resigning from the island's government amid the latest football scandal to implicate the longtime FIFA power broker.

He also published letters apparently showing Havelange agreed to convert FIFA's loan of $6 million into a donation to him and the Caribbean Football Union.

''I told Havelange that, through him, Blatter will get CONCACAF's total support,'' Warner said. ''Blatter had been at this time the most hated FIFA official by both the European and African confederations.

''I was Blatter's idol then and he was mine.''

FIFA declined to comment in detail ''on any allegations made by Jack Warner.''

''In general, anyone who has any substantiated allegations to make is welcome to address such allegations to the relevant bodies at FIFA, including the independent Ethics Committee,'' FIFA said in a statement.

Warner's version of saving the election for Blatter doesn't entirely match a widely reported account, which involves African delegates switching sides just ahead of the June 8, 1998, vote in Paris.

Johansson, then UEFA president, was expected to be a strong candidate in the election to replace Havelange based mainly on widespread support across Europe and Africa, and some voters in Asia.

The Swedish official declined to contest a second ballot required by FIFA election rules after Blatter had a 111-80 victory in the first.

British author David Yallop wrote in a book published in 1999 that up to 20 Africans were paid by Middle East interests to abandon their promised support for Johansson, which would probably have given him 100 votes and momentum to beat Blatter in the second ballot.

Warner revived another piece of lore about the 1998 election - that Haiti's delegate was absent and its vote in Paris was made without the island's authority by the girlfriend of Jamaica's delegate.

Blatter was in on the ruse, according to Warner.

''With Blatter's permission, I got Captain Horace Burrell's girlfriend to vote as the Haitian delegate by saying, `Oui!' when Haiti's name was called,'' Warner wrote.

Warner, who hopes to revive his political career in Trinidad, could yet face legal action from CONCACAF and FIFA over his ownership.

Havelange, who is still FIFA honorary president at 97, could face sanctions sooner. FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert is expected to give rulings within days in an investigation into a World Cup kickbacks scandal implicating Havelange in taking millions of dollars in improper payments.



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