MIAMI (Reuters) - CONCACAF could move its lucrative Gold Cup tournament outside its traditional home in the United States and also introduce a women’s tournament as president Jeffrey Webb looks to refocus the scandal-hit body.
Webb was elected president in May after the confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) was thrown into turmoil after a financial scandal that led to the departure of former president Jack Warner.
In an interview with Reuters, Webb said an investigation of past issues is being conducted in a bid to tackle problems from the era of Warner and former General Secretary Chuck Blazer.
But while a detailed report on the organization’s past is expected in about nine months, Webb wants to see energy put into future plans and a refocus on the grassroots.
The biennial Gold Cup, the continental tournament, is the main source of revenue for the confederation and every edition since it began in 1991 has been held in the United States.
Next year’s Gold Cup will again be played in the United States but Webb feels it is time to consider alternatives for the 2015 edition and beyond.
“We have to look at other options and opportunities. We have to look at Canada ... we must look at Mexico and some of the other countries as well,” said Webb.
“We have to. We are not going to approach it saying that it has to, it must, continue in the United States. I think we have a responsibility to all 40 countries to look at what is best for CONCACAF.”
Mexico jointly hosted the 1993 and 2003 tournaments with the United States and has plenty of stadium options, as does Canada. But alternatives outside of those countries are limited, unless there is a switch to joint-hosting.
“There will only be a few countries that will have the facilities and capability of hosting a tournament,” said Webb.
As well as wanting to see an increase in resources for the club competition, the CONCACAF Champions League, the Cayman Islander said he wants the body to also look into fresh ideas for the women’s game.
“Should we have a women’s Gold Cup? Should we have a women’s club championship? What are we doing with women’s football?” said Webb, adding that smaller age-group youth competitions could also be introduced.
Women’s tournaments in the region have generally served as qualifying events for the Women’s World Cup rather than as stand-alone continental championships.
CONCACAF found itself at the heart of a cash-for-votes scandal during the last FIFA presidential election, in which former Asian soccer chief Mohammed Bin Hammam was accused of giving cash gifts to Caribbean officials.
Webb says the organization is now committed to open governance and is trying to change its image.
“We do it one step at a time. We must of course regain our credibility. We must show people that we are transparent and serious about the business of football,” said Webb.
“We do have a responsibility to society at large. Hopefully over time we develop some stability and consistency and that will regain the credibility and integrity that the game deserves.”
The changes are likely to include moving CONCACAF’s headquarters away from the controversial rented accommodation in a luxury apartment complex in Manhattan.
“I really can’t see from a business standpoint the necessity for it to be there. We will look at it and at various cities,” said Webb. “Miami is really the hub for Central America and the Caribbean, it is one flight in and accessible for everyone.”
Webb said he is aware that bridges need to be rebuilt between the numerical majority in the Caribbean and the Central American countries who have sometimes felt isolated in the body and he wants to see cash put into developing facilities and programs across the entire region.
“CONCACAF is the hub for 40 countries and I don’t think it has adequately serviced that responsibility to the member countries. I think we should be sharing the wealth with those countries, helping them participate in competitions,” said Webb.
“I have a clear agenda that I want to focus on the field of play and on the players and on grassroots programs and player development. The game is about players, coaches and referees and that should be the foundation of the game.”
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Frank Pingue