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Deep divisions in North America’s football federation, CONCACAF, have been exposed after its secretary-general was fired and then reinstated within hours.
The confederation’s acting president tried on Tuesday to fire Chuck Blazer, whose allegations of bribery have rocked world football.
It all came just hours before FIFA was expected to vote Sepp Blatter as its president for a fourth consecutive term on Wednesday.
In a letter to Blazer, Lisle Austin, who has taken over temporarily from the suspended Jack Warner as CONCACAF chief, said Blazer was “terminated as general secretary of CONCACAF with immediate effect.”
Austin, a Barbadian, is viewed as a close Caribbean ally of Warner’s and the letter was distributed by a media official in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.
Lee Wellings reports from FIFA headquarters
Blazer swiftly responded with a statement issued by CONCACAF’s media department in New York that said the move was “unauthorised” and that the American remained in office.
Blazer was the whistle-blower who made allegations of corruption against Caribbean football federations, which led to the suspension of Warner, a former ally and the long-standing CONCACAF president.
The American produced a report to FIFA which alleged that bribes had been paid during a meeting with Caribbean federations in Port of Spain earlier this month.
Mohamed bin Hammam, the Asian football chief, was at that time a candidate against incumbent FIFA president Blatter. He has since withdrawn and also been provisionally suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee pending an inquiry.
Earlier on Tuesday, Blazer had reported Warner to FIFA, saying that he had breached the terms of his suspension which bars him from “football activities”, resulting in a strong retaliation from the Warner camp.
Austin said in the letter that he considered Blazer had “grossly insulted and defamed” Caribbean associations by stating “that each member association was under investigation for bribery.”
The acting president also said Blazer had “improperly appointed five non-elected members of CONCACAF to congress”.
Austin repeated that Blazer had no authority to hire Chicago-based lawyers, Collins and Collins, to collect information for the report which led to the suspension of Warner.
“The above conduct is inexcusable and a gross misconduct of duty and judgement. It is apparent that you are no longer fit to act as secretary general of CONCACAF and to represent its members,” the letter concluded.
The subsequent CONCACAF statement said that Austin had no power to sack Blazer. “Under the CONCACAF Statutes, jurisdiction over the general secretary rests solely with the CONCACAF Executive Committee
which has taken no action,” it said.
“Further a majority of the executive committee members have advised Mr Austin that he does not have the authority to take such action.
“Chuck Blazer continues as CONCACAF general secretary and with the full authority of his office. The Confederation continues its normal operations”.