MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Canadian businessman Victor Montagliani was elected president of CONCACAF on Thursday and said that cleaning up the embattled governing body for soccer in North, Central America and the Caribbean “would not be done in a day.”
After a secret ballot which produced a major power shift in the region, Montagliani, head of his country’s football association, won by 25 votes to 16 after vowing to make the organisation more corporate.
His opponent, Bermuda’s Larry Mussenden, had promised to help the confederation’s smaller nations.
Montagliani said he would work to make sure one of Canada, United States and Mexico would win the right to host the 2026 World Cup and promised to expand CONCACAF’s own Gold Cup to 16 teams.
“I think that the three countries that have put up their hands are very, very strong in their own right and we will look for a collaborative strategy to bring the World Cup back to CONCACAF in 2026,” he said.
The 50-year-old has already said that the United States will continue to host the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is held every two years, although other countries could host “segments” of each tournament.
“Football is a business and as president you must be able to work the corners of the global corporate community,” the eventual winner said in a 10-minute speech to CONCACAF’s 41 members before the vote.
“I understand the desire for change we so desperately need. I am a football man, a CONCACAF man, and very proud of it.”
The 31 federations which make up the Caribbean Football Union have traditionally held power in CONCACAF, usually voting in block, but Thursday’s results showed that this time they had been split.
Mussenden, a lawyer who is Bermuda’s director of public prosecutions, drew applause from the delegates when he promised there would be no splurging on expensive consultancy firms.
“We must say goodbye to eight million dollar-a-year consultants and put those funds into development,” he said.
The two men, head of the Football Associations of their respective countries, were bidding to lead CONCACAF out of years of turmoil.
The Miami-based confederation has been at the centre of a corruption scandal that has engulfed world football, during which 42 individuals and entities have been charged in the United States on a variety of graft-related offences.
Three of CONCACAF’s most recent presidents, Trinidad and Tobago’s Jack Warner, Cayman Islander Jeffrey Webb and Honduran Alfredo Hawit, are among those charged.
“We know that cleaning up CONCACAF will not be done in a day,” he told reporters after the election, adding that the example would come from the top.
“When you are talking about integrity, my actions as a family man and businessman have spoken for themselves in my 50 years.”
CONCACAF lawyer Samir Gandhi said that the Confederation continued to be considered as a victim by U.S. prosecutors, but had to implement reforms approved in February.
“This is an organisation that’s no longer in crisis,” he said. “It is important we continue to maintain our status as a victim. We have to implement these reforms and that is the key to maintaining our status as a victim.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez and Pritha Sarkar