FIFA rejects Austin's challenge
FIFA has weighed in on CONCACAF's ongoing power struggle, declaring Alfredo Hawit the rightful acting president of football's governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean.
In a letter obtained Saturday by The Associated Press, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told Hawit, CONCACAF's 40 member federations and its executive committee that football's international governing body recognized the decision to put Hawit in charge of CONCACAF amid the turmoil that followed the suspension of longtime president Jack Warner.
''We asked a bureau of the FIFA Legal Committee to analyze the current situation, in order to address the various requests made to FIFA for its intervention,'' Valcke wrote in the letter, sent Friday. ''After a thorough analysis of the file in our possession, the bureau of the FIFA Legal Committee deems that the relevant steps and decisions taken within CONCACAF appear to be in line with the statutory provisions of CONCACAF.''
Lisle Austin took control of CONCACAF after Warner was suspended by FIFA amid bribery allegations. But CONCACAF's executive committee ousted Austin after he tried to fire the confederation's secretary general Chuck Blazer, the senior FIFA member who accused Warner and Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam of trying to buy votes in FIFA's presidential election.
Austin's suspension for alleged rule violations has since been extended by FIFA to ban him from any football duties until a full hearing is held.
But the Barbados native said his ousting was ''illegal,'' and claimed only he had the power to convene the meeting that led to his removal. Austin also claimed Friday he had been granted an injunction by a court in the Bahamas to resume his CONCACAF duties.
But Valcke's letter advised members of CONCACAF's own rules, which prohibit the use of ''ordinary courts'' to settle disputes. Such rows can only be settled within FIFA or by appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
''All legal remedies must remain open to those who do not agree with any decisions taken against them, in line with the relevant articles of the CONCACAF statutes,'' Valcke wrote, not referring to Austin's apparent injunction.
Valcke ended the letter by telling Hawit: ''It is important that you as acting president, but also the CONCACAF executive committee and all relevant CONCACAF bodies, now focus on bringing back unity to CONCACAF.''
The power struggle comes as FIFA continues to investigate claims that Warner and bin Hammam paid or offered bribes of $40,000 to 25 Caribbean voters during bin Hammam's failed campaign to unseat FIFA President Sepp Blatter last month. Both Warner and bin Hammam were members of FIFA's executive committee before being suspended.
Horace Burrell, acting president of the Caribbean Football Union in Warner's absence, confirmed Saturday that all of his members would cooperate with the investigation, which is being led by former FBI director Louis Freeh.
The majority of the 25 CFU members had opposed being interviewed in the United States, but the questioning now will be conducted in the Bahamas.