CONCACAF suspends acting president Austin

CONCACAF has suspended acting president Lisle Austin for alleged rule violations, drawing an angry response from Austin who claimed on Saturday the action was ”illegal.”

Austin took control of the federation representing North and Central America and the Caribbean after longtime leader Jack Warner was suspended on Sunday by world football’s governing body over bribery allegations along with fellow FIFA executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam.

The corruption claims were reported to FIFA by CONCACAF secretary general Chuck Blazer, who Austin tried to remove from the position in retaliation for turning on Warner.

CONCACAF’s executive committee quickly rejected Austin’s move, ruling that he lacked the power to fire Blazer.

”Lisle Austin has been provisionally banned from all football activities within CONCACAF and at the national level by a majority of the CONCACAF Executive Committee members for apparent infringement of the CONCACAF statutes,” the New York-based governing body said in a statement. ”Notice of this suspension is being sent to FIFA to be extended worldwide.”

CONCACAF is also asking FIFA to extend Austin’s suspension to football duties worldwide until his full hearing July 13.

Vice president Alfredo Hawit has been appointed CONCACAF’s acting president.

”We are clearly passing through a difficult time,” Hawit said in a statement released by CONCACAF. ”However, I steadfastly believe that CONCACAF will overcome these challenges and reach even greater heights.”

However, Austin claimed that anyone dealing with the Honduran would be ”implicating themselves into illegal activities.”

A statement from Austin’s office in the Caribbean insisted that the actions taken in New York and announced by the official CONCACAF media department were ”illegal” and contravene several rules.

It said only Austin has the power to chair meetings of the executive committee.

”It necessarily follows that if the president did not convene or did not chair any meeting of the executive committee that any actions taken or decisions reached at said meeting are not only unenforceable but are ultra vires (invalid),” the statement said.

Austin said his CONCACAF colleagues denied him a hearing to defend himself.

”Mr. Austin is both shocked and disheartened that the online publications of the Confederation are once again being employed to wage a war against the Office of the acting president, a war in which only the Confederation and its members will continue to suffer,” the statement from the Barbados-native’s office said.

The provisional ban applies to Austin’s activities with CONCACAF and in his native Barbados.

Before his suspension, Austin tried to sever CONCACAF’s relationship with John P. Collins, a former federal prosecutor who investigated Blazer’s allegations and prepared the report for FIFA. Collins represents CONCACAF, and also sits on FIFA’s legal committee.

Collins’ signature is on the notice of Austin’s suspension.

The announcement comes one day before the start of the Gold Cup, CONCACAF’s premier event. The tournament is being played in 13 cities across the United States, and the winner will earn a spot in the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Warner and bin Hammam were suspended by FIFA after Blazer accused them of offering Caribbean officials $40,000 each in exchange for their votes in last Wednesday’s presidential election. Bin Hammam had been the only challenger to Sepp Blatter, who was elected unopposed to a fourth term.

AP Sports Writers Rob Harris in London and Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.