The president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) said on Wednesday (24 August) that the entity had operated as a “personal fiefdom and business” and that he would effectively relaunch the organization with complete transparency.
Alejandro Dominguez, 44, took over CONMEBOL in January 2016 following the U.S. Justice Department investigation that revealed widespread corruption in the organization and its global governing body FIFA.
“When we took on the responsibility, we imagined the magnitude of what was CONMEBOL. Regrettably, imagination fell short, (and) when we entered Conmebol, we realized that we were entering a structure without organization, something that I would identify as a personal fiefdom and business, a structure driven by the discretional will of certain people and never paid (its) accounts,” Dominguez told a news conference in Buenos Aires.
CONMEBOL has been hard hit by the recent FIFA corruption scandal with Dominguez’s three predecessors and officials from all 10 member nations among those indicted.
A U.S. investigation into more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks sought and received by football officials for marketing and broadcast rights to tournaments and matches has led to more than 40 individuals and entities being charged, including Argentine businessmen Mariano Jinkis and his father Hugo.
At the CONMEBOL headquarters in Asuncion, Paraguay, Dominguez said he found the entity’s financial records in complete disarray.
“At CONMEBOL, we found an institution that had diplomatic immunity and operated in impunity. In the CONMEBOL office, incredibly, there didn’t exist any documents before 2013, and as a consequence, you can imagine that there are no balances or account reports. All of the estimates that they gave us were questionable or were incomplete, or worse. It’s an institution that until this year has never had a budget,” Dominguez said.
He said during his leadership he hopes to restore the entity and bring its focus back to sport.
“We found a CONMEBOL that had money as its objective and football was half. What we are doing now is thinking about football. We want to be able to talk about football. We are not in conditions of talking about football yet because we’re continuing to end the problems of the past year, but above everything and I want to be very specific, building a new CONMEBOL, that is about football and for football.”
In parallel investigations, Swiss and U.S. authorities are focusing on whether business contracts and the World Cup hosting rights for 2018 in Russia and 2022 in Qatar were won with the help of bribery.