FIFA signals return of funding

| 12/08/2019
Cayman News Service
Gianni Infantino

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Football Association could soon see the much-needed funding from the global governing sports body return, after FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who visited Cayman Friday, said he had full confidence in the investigation into alleged financial crime at the local association. Last week Bruce Blake, who, despite his arrest, had been reinstated as vice president at CIFA, and former treasurer Canover Watson were charged in the two-year probe.

Infantino and CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani were both at a press conference on Friday, where Infantino said the charges were the beginning of the end of the financial scandal that has swirled around the local football association since the arrest of former CIFA and CONCACAF president Jeff Webb in the wider global FIFA scandal.

CIFA did not escape unscathed. Long before Webb was arrested questions had been raised about financial irregularities at the association. Although auditors had signed off the accounts for several years following Webb’s arrest, red flags were finally raised, triggering what has been described as a complex Anti-Corruption Commission investigation.

Given the scandal surrounding CIFA and several of its executives, both the Cayman Islands Government and FIFA cut off funding, causing severe problems for the game here. But on Friday Infantino said the news of the charges was positive, as he indicated that CIFA would receive new money for local football infrastructure.

The FIFA boss lauded Alfredo Whittaker, the current CIFA president, for the work he and his team have done under the circumstances. He said he knew what he was talking about because the circumstances at FIFA when he took over from Sepp Blatter were “not really the best”. He added, “You have to roll up your sleeves and work… That’s exactly what has happened here.”

Meanwhile, meetings that were expected to take place between the FIFA president, the premier and sports minister never materialised. While there has been no indication from the ministry about why they did not meet, Infantino indicated that it is likely related to the charges and the ACC probe.

After news broke about the charges on Thursday, Bruce Blake issued a short statement through his attorney, Steve McField, Friday evening, protesting his innocence. Blake “strongly” denied the charges, adding that his legal team would “vigorously defend” the allegations and that he was looking forward to a fair trial. McField added that the charges brought against his client are not yet proven and he was innocent until proven guilty.

Watson has not yet commented about the charges against him.

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