InsideWorldFootball – Guyanese Mark Rodrigues is the first candidate to declare he will run for the
presidency of the North and Central American and the Caribbean confederation in elections expected to take place May 12 in Mexico City.
Rodrigues, who has a strong history of administration, football development and coaching, has issued a manifesto in which he says he will usher in a new style of leadership at CONCACAF, “one that leads with honesty and integrity where playing football is at the heart of everything we do and stand for.”
His entry into a leadership contest dramatically changes the presidential playing field in a confederation that historically has preferred to have its elections stage-managed.
The CONCACAF executive committee chose not to promote one of its vice-presidents to the role of interim president following the arrest of the serving interim vice president Alfredo Hawit in Zurich in December while attending FIFA meetings.
Without anyone fulfilling the presidential role, this left the executive committee and its consultants in charge of decision making, with the statement that they believe that it is in the best interests of the confederation to wait until new elections in May. This situation has been challenged by Caribbean members who strongly feel that it is a breach of the confederation’s statutes.
The arrival of Rodrigues, backed by Guyana but who will need the support of three further member associations before he can officially stand, opens up the challenge for the presidency. It is believed that the North and Central American preferred candidate for the presidency is Canadian president Victor Montagliani, while from the Caribbean region, Caribbean Football Union president Gordon Derrick also has privately expressed ambition for the position in the past and is expected to step forward.
The Caribbean, if they vote as a block can be king makers in the region with their 31 votes out of a total of 41 in the confederation. It is rumoured that there may also be another Caribbean candidate in the running, the popular Luis Hernandez of Cuba who is a member of CONCACAF’s executive committee.
If three Caribbean candidates stand (and assuming the Caribbean does not follow through on talk of breaking away from CONCACAF and reforming itself as its own confederation within FIFA’s jurisdiction), then the regional vote could be split which, ironically, will likely lead to the long term splitting of the Caribbean’s power base and regional voice which the associations are keen to protect.
Rodrigues brings an alternative dimension to CONCACAF’s presidential options. Having had a career in business where he handled over $110 million of real estates sales in Canada, as well as being president and COO of several multi-franchised fast food stores. He returned to focus on football, building the largest youth soccer club in Florida in five years.
In 2009 he started the Guyana Women’s National Team programme, qualifying for the 2010 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Championships, returning in May last year to the women’s set-up and has again qualified the team for the CONCACAF Olympic Championships in Texas, February 2016. He works this job pro bono.
Having worked across multiple CONCACAF member associations he has experienced firsthand the challenges member associations face. This is reflected in his manifesto which proposes to get more of the confederation’s money directly to its member associations. “50% of CONCACAF’s revenues should be distributed directly to the Member Associations for Solidarity over 4 years – including the $100,000 that was initiated and stopped in 2014.”
He also says the confederation needs to establish a sufficient reserve to cover operational needs of CONCACAF and that there needs to be a greater transparency of running costs and development funding. All of this he says must come with much greater auditing and compliance procedures.
Rodrigues also puts integrity at the heart of his proposal saying that “an independent governance and audit and compliance committee will be in charge of supervising the CONCACAF President and the entire CONCACAF organization to ensure good governance is implemented.”
He also proposes the “creation of the CONCACAF Football Council whose role will be to advise the CONCACAF President and the CONCACAF Executive Committee on strategic football matters such as:
• Improving the Confederations way of governance
• Competition formats
• Strategies for football development
• Council will be composed of highly respected members of football and the football business
community to ensure credibility
Not surprisingly given his history of football development and grassroots experience, he has a separate set of five proposals that he says are iron-clad:
1. Increase Participation of All Ages and Genders in Grassroots Football – via structured schools projects in conjunction with governments and targeting a 10% increase in registered boys and girls
2. Increase Expertise in Elite and Grassroots Football Development – through knowledge sharing programmes funded by CONCACAF
3. Establish a System Where the Cost of the Technical Director is Supported or Covered by CONCACAF
4. Expand Infrastructures and Distribution of Football Material
5. Developing Women’s Football – he says the women’s game must have it’s own budget.
Rodrigues says he has worked at various levels within CONCACAF but has not participated at the top levels of the confederation’s structures where it has been most exposed to the corruption that brought it to its knees earlier this year. He says this is a positive as he is “not beholden to anyone in any way. Therefore I can serve as CONCACAF President exclusively in the interest of football, while representing all 41 Member Associations and their future.”
The challenge for Rodrigues will be to convince member association voters that he has the expertise and skills to lead the confederation into a new era. He will need to overcome some high profile opposition in CONCACAF football administrative circles to do that.
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