Reuters Soccer Blog
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Visitors to the Marriot Marquis Hotel in downtown Miami on Tuesday were greeted by a typical conference ‘Welcome Desk’ in the hotel’s spacious lobby area. Behind the desk was a banner declaring the 50th Congress of CONCACAF – the governing body for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean was gathering, along with FIFA president Sepp Blatter, to review the year, discuss key issues and – top of the agenda – to decide whether to back Blatter in June’s FIFA elections or to support his opponent, Asian soccer chief Mohamed Bin Hammam.
It was the first time I had seen the logo of the congress. There had been no promotion of the event on the Confederation’s website, no communiques from CONCACAF inviting the press to the gathering and, somewhat strangely, the three seats at the welcome desk were empty. A rather odd ‘welcome’ to what was, in world soccer governance, a crucial meeting.
It was a crucial congress not only because of the agenda but because it was the first gathering of CONCACAF’s membership since the World Cup vote when, their bid, for the U.S to host in 2022, was defeated, sparking anger and bitterness in the American soccer community.
When FIFA awarded the hosting rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, after a selection process which had been heavily criticised in the media and was subsequently attacked by some of the losing federations, particularly England‘s, there was a huge amount of pressure on soccer’s global governing body to increase its transparency and accountability. The secret voting, the endless lobbying meetings and the impression that financial weight rather than purely the merits of the bids was a key factor, created a mood of frustration and anger amongst fans, especially coming after reports of votes being sold resulting in the suspension of two members of FIFA’s executive committee.