KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) – In the end, there was no tsunami.
Embattled former CONCACAF president Jack Warner's decision to walk away from a sport he has been intimately involved with for over 30 years, thus closing what has been reported to be a damning ethical inquiry, is a big win for everyone involved in running soccer - and a massive loss for the sport.
Warner's brazen grasping will not be missed. But anyone who thinks the sleaze began in Port of Spain and will end now that one of the games most notorious figures is out the door is gravely mistaken. Warner was in fact right when he defiantly told the British press that he was "hung out to dry" by FIFA: the biggest crooks are still running this sport, and they are praying that fans have short memories.
The fact is, Warner's decision allows FIFA to avoid a damaging and public airing of the corruption festering inside its ranks. FIFA's culture of unaccountability remains intact - no shock for an outfit whose members refuse to admit they have a problem at all. It stinks of a backroom deal, and it makes Sepp Blatter's promises to shine some light on his outfit seem even more cynical and hollow than ever.
The lesson to take away from this is bald: FIFA takes care of its own first, and to hell with the fans and the integrity of the sport.
Warner leaves behind a complex legacy. He inherited a nearly bankrupt confederation and, alongside American Chuck Blazer, turned CONCACAF into a political and financial juggernaut. During his tenure, CONCACAF went from a squabbling group of minor players to: a federation that earns more money in TV rights fees than anywhere else in the world; has two vibrant and successful professional leagues to feed all forty members; enjoys the financial muscle of the United States with none of the political entanglements; and, has the power to crown FIFA's president.
That last bit is in fact Warner's most important contribution to modern FIFA. He recognized that if CONCACAF voted as a bloc, delivering all 35 votes for a single candidate, this tiny - and frankly, poor - group of soccer nations could be kingmakers. And make no mistake: Warner was a kingmaker, delivering Blatter the presidency on a silver platter twice, before committing the cardinal sin of listening to other offers. So important was Warner that World Cup bidders fell all over themselves in attempts to curry his favor in ways that ranged from the laughable to what might well have been criminal.
Of course, we'll never know. One of the most riveting parts of this affair was the hope that Warner would in fact deliver on his promises to tell all. This was a man who was once punished for seamy ticket dealings, but accused of far greater: Soliciting millions of dollars from World Cup bidders over the decades, asking for questionable handouts from federations in exchange for games and other favors, and of course, handing out those now infamous stacks of American hundred dollar bills to Caribbean officials. He knew where all the bodies were buried.
Those bodies will remain buried for now, and FIFA hopes they'll stay that way for good. But Warner did do us all one favor: He got caught, and in so doing, finally focused some attention on this very seedy, very greedy cabal of men.
Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and the Barclays Premier League.