Chuck Blazer, 72, Former CONCACAF Secretary General

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(WFI) Chuck Blazer, the man responsible for dragging North American soccer into modernity and later the symbol of rampant corruption in FIFA is dead at the age of 72.

Chuck Blazer (Getty Images)
A lawyer for Blazer confirmed his death in a statement saying the executive died following a prolonged battle with cancer.

"We are truly saddened by the passing of our client and friend, Chuck Blazer," the lawyer said in a statement. "His misconduct, for which he accepted full responsibility, should not obscure Chuck's positive impact on international soccer."

Blazer leaves a polarizing legacy in world football, personally profiting from CONCACAF funds for decades but also serving as a whistleblower against many FIFA executives.

He joined the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football in 1986 as part of his election on the United States Soccer Federation board. Four years later he was appointed Secretary General after helping Jack Warner win the confederation’s presidency. Blazer held the position of Secretary General from 1990 to 2011.

It was as Secretary General that Blazer modernized CONCACAF and the USSF, while exploiting and amassing considerable power in FIFA. Blazer brought the World Cup to the United States for the first time in 1994 and later became a member of the FIFA Executive Committee.

Early in his tenure as CONCACAF Secretary General Blazer sought to create a continental championship tournament and aggressively sold its rights. The Gold Cup, as it is known, would be continuously hosted in the United States to ensure profitability.

Blazer also helped create the United States Women’s National Team. The team has developed into the standard of global women’s football and one of the most successful national teams of all time of either gender.

For all of his innovations, it is his undoing that Blazer will be remembered for. As part of his contract as CONCACAF Secretary General Blazer negotiated a “10 percent clause,” allowing him to personally profit on all rights deals signed by the confederation. This helped Blazer amass a large fortune, which he lived lavishly on in New York City. That lavish lifestyle included owning two apartments in Trump Tower, the same building that housed CONCACAF headquarters. Blazer lived in one of the apartments, and used the other to house his partner’s cats.

In 2011 the United States Internal Revenue Service arrested Blazer for failing to report his taxes for the previous five years. After his arrest it was revealed that Blazer’s CONCACAF salary in that period was over $20 million. U.S. authorities leveraged Blazer’s arrest for help in a larger investigation against FIFA officials for rampant corruption and bribery. Blazer secured a plea bargain in exchange for testimony against fellow FIFA executives in 2013.

That testimony would not be used until 2015 when American and Swiss authorities arrested numerous FIFA officials at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, Switzerland. One of the officials arrested was Blazer’s former partner Jack Warner, from evidence that he secured a $10 million bribe from South Africa to “support football in the African Diaspora”.
 
Many of the officials arrested in Zurich face extradition to the United States or have taken plea deals. The levels of corruption Blazer revealed traveled all the way up the FIFA leadership chain forcing the resignation of President Sepp Blatter.

New FIFA President Gianni Infantino sought to quickly move the sports body away from the Blatter years through a series of hastily passed reforms. Gone is the executive committee and old structures, replaced by a sleeker FIFA aiming to avoid the exploitation of its cash cow, the World Cup.

One serendipitous part of Blazer’s legacy is FIFA rushing to secure stability in its flagship event by streamlining the bidding for the 2026 World Cup. Awarding a tournament cleanly and earlier will give FIFA will time to continue its reformation process, and could build trust back in its allocation processes.

The frontrunner for the tournament is a joint bid by Canada, Mexico, and most importantly the United States.

By INSIDER Aaron Bauer

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