Charles Gordon Blazer (April 26, 1945 – July 12, 2017) was an American soccer administrator, who held a number of high level positions before becoming a government informant on widespread corruption within organized soccer. He was a FIFA Executive Committee member from 1996 to 2013, the CONCACAF General Secretary from 1990 until 2011, and Executive Vice President of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Charles Gordon Blazer
April 26, 1945
New York City, U.S.
|Died||July 12, 2017 (aged 72)|
New Jersey, U.S.
|Alma mater||New York University|
|Known for||Whistleblower and lead informant in the 2015 FIFA corruption case|
|Home town||Westchester County, New York|
|Criminal charge(s)||Income tax evasion, money laundering, racketeering, and wire fraud|
|Criminal penalty||$1.9 million restitution, lifetime ban from FIFA|
(m. 1990; div. 1995)
In 2013, Blazer admitted to conspiring with other FIFA Executive Committee members to accept bribes in conjunction with the failed bid of Morocco and the successful bid of South Africa to become World Cup hosts in 1998 and 2010, respectively. His admissions came during testimony given at a sealed sentencing proceeding in a New York federal court.
Blazer grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in the New York borough of Queens, where his father ran a stationery and newspaper shop. He attended Forest Hills High School and then took an accountancy degree at New York University. After graduating, he enrolled at NYU's Stern School of Business but did not complete his MBA. He then spent a number of years selling promotional and marketing items; a first success was supplying buttons for the Smiley craze in the 1970s. When his son started playing youth soccer in Westchester County, New York, in 1976, Blazer started coaching the team even though he had never played the game. He is remembered as a skillful and active administrator, more interested in organizing than coaching. He advanced in youth soccer administration up to the Eastern New York State Soccer Association.
In 1984, persuading Pelé to campaign for him, he was elected to the United States Soccer Federation as executive vice president in charge of international competition. In the next two years the US mens soccer team played 19 matches, having played only two in the two years before Blazer's election. While with U.S. soccer, Blazer played a central role in the decision to make the successful bid for the 1994 World Cup. Also during this time, the U.S. women's soccer team was formed. Blazer's position gave him a seat on the board of CONCACAF, where he met Jack Warner. In 1986, after failing to win re-election, he co-founded the American Soccer League, running it from his home. It lasted only two years, with Blazer being forced out by the owners who felt they had been kept in the dark about finances. He became president of the Miami Sharks, taking control of the finances, only to leave precipitously after five months in May 1989.
In 1989, Blazer convinced Jack Warner to run for CONCACAF president. Blazer managed Warner's successful campaign and was then appointed General Secretary. He was the General Secretary of CONCACAF from 1990 until 2011. He was a member of the FIFA Executive Committee from 1996 to April 2013, when Sunil Gulati was elected to replace him.
Corruption allegations and convictionEdit
In May 2011, in response to allegations of bribery made by national representatives attending a May 10 meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), Blazer initiated an investigation of AFC President Mohammed bin Hammam and FIFA Vice President Jack Warner. The investigation was conducted by John P. Collins, former United States federal prosecutor and FIFA Legal Committee member. Its submission led to FIFA's May 29, 2011, suspension of Warner and Bin Hammam from all soccer activities, pending the outcome of FIFA's own investigation and procedures. Acting CONCACAF president Lisle Austin attempted to fire Blazer five days later, but the action was blocked by the CONCACAF executive committee. On June 15, 2011, Blazer was questioned by the FIFA Ethics Committee.
On August 14, 2011, journalist Andrew Jennings noted in the British newspaper The Independent that the FBI was examining documentary evidence revealing confidential soccer payments to offshore accounts operated by Blazer. He began working undercover for the FBI in December 2011.
On April 19, 2013, Blazer and Jack Warner were accused of massive fraud during their years as CONCACAF executives. A forensic audit by the organization's Integrity Committee determined that both men had functioned without a written contract from 1998 until their respective departures, and that Blazer had received US$15 million in commissions for his services during that time frame. An anonymous government source expected that an ongoing FBI investigation into Blazer's finances would be expanded significantly and joined by the IRS. In May 2013, Blazer was suspended for 90 days.
On November 1, 2014, it was reported (by the New York Daily News) that Blazer had been a confidential informant for the FBI and the IRS, and recorded key meetings between executives for FIFA and for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Blazer was compelled to inform for the FBI and IRS after they uncovered more than a decade of unpaid taxes on hidden, multimillion-dollar incomes. On May 27, 2015, several FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich, with Blazer having been a key cooperating witness in the investigation that led to the arrests. In exchange for his cooperation, Blazer agreed to plead guilty to charges that include racketeering, wire fraud, income tax evasion, and money laundering. Blazer died before being sentenced. The delay in sentencing was caused by the decisions of his co-defendants to go to trial.
On June 3, 2015, the transcript of a closed sentencing proceeding (which occurred in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on November 25, 2013) was unsealed and made public. In his 2013 testimony, Blazer admitted to conspiring with other FIFA Executive Committee members to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of 1998 and 2010 World Cup hosts. On July 9, 2015, Blazer received a lifetime ban from FIFA from all soccer-related activity.
- Jennings, Andrew (2007). Foul! : the secret world of FIFA ; bribes, vote rigging and ticket scandals ([Updated ed.]. ed.). London: HarperSport. p. 138. ISBN 9780007208692.
- Longman, Jeré; Ruiz, Rebecca R. "Chuck Blazer, Central Figure in FIFA Scandal, Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "Former FIFA ExCo member turned whistleblower Chuck Blazer dies at 72". ESPNFC.com. AP. July 13, 2017.
- Papenfuss, Mary; Thompson, Teri. "The Soap Opera Actress Who Captured Chuck Blazer's Heart". Vice Sports. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "The United States of America against Chuck Blazer". U.S. Department of Justice. June 2, 2015. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
- Bryant, Nick (June 4, 2015). "Fifa crisis: Ex-official Chuck Blazer details bribe-taking". BBC News. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "Chuck Blazer, insider who touched off soccer scandal, dead at 72". Times of Israel. July 13, 2017. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- Bensinger, Ken. "Mr. Ten Percent: The Man Who Built — And Bilked — American Soccer". BuzzFeed.com. BuzzFeed, Inc. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
- Papenfuss, Mary & Thompson, Teri, "American Huckster How Chuck Blazer got Rich From—And Sold Out—The Most Powerful Cabal in World Sports," Harper Collins, 2016, pp 12-15
- "Profile". FIFA. Retrieved March 16, 2011.
- Rigg, Zac Lee. "Meet Chuck Blazer, the former FIFA bigwig whose cats had a Trump Tower apartment". Fusion.net. Fusion Media Network, LLC. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
- "Whistleblower Chuck Blazer resigning from No. 2 CONCACAF post". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "President's Column: April 2013". FIFA. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
- "US's Gulati elected to FIFA executive committee". REUTERS. April 19, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
- Bahamian Whistle Blower Applauded, Repeating Islands, repeatingislands.com, May 31, 2011
- "Two members of the FIFA Executive Committee provisionally suspended". FIFA.com. May 29, 2011.
- "FIFA Probes bin Hammam, Warner For Bribery". India TV News.
- "Concacaf acting president Lisle Austin fires general secretary Chuck Blazer". Daily Telegraph. London. May 31, 2011.
- Associated Press, "CONCACAF stymies attempt to fire Blazer", Japan Times, June 2, 2011, p. 18.
- "Fifa questions Blazer after letter of complaint". BBC Sport. June 15, 2011. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
- Jennings, Andrew (June 14, 2011). "FBI investigates secret payments to Fifa whistleblower". London, UK: The Independent. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
- "BBC Sport - Chuck Blazer secretly co-operated with Fifa investigation from 2011". BBC Sport. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- Paul Nicholson. "Audit slays CONCACAFs one-time dynamic duo". insideworldfootball.com. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
- "Jack Warner, Chuck Blazer face likely legal cases, FBI probe". Sports Illustrated. April 22, 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
- "Fifa's Chuck Blazer suspended over 'fraudulent' claims". BBC Sport. May 6, 2013.
- "Soccer Rat! The inside story of how Chuck Blazer, ex-U.S. soccer executive and FIFA bigwig, became a confidential informant for the FBI," Teri Thompson, Mary Papenfuss, Christian Red, Nathaniel Vinton, NY Daily News 1 Nov 2014
- "Chuck Blazer, a Soccer Bon Vivant Laid Low", nytimes.com, May 27, 2015.
- "Chuck Blazer reportedly informed FBI in FIFA investigation". Business Insider. May 27, 2015. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- Martin, Andrew (May 27, 2015). "Former Westchester Soccer Dad at Core of Sprawling FIFA Scandal". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "Chuck Blazer, Central Figure in FIFA Scandal, Dies at 72". New York Times. July 13, 2017.
- "Transcript in 1:13-cr-00602-RJD" (PDF). Retrieved June 3, 2015.
- "Chuck Blazer: FIFA imposes life ban from football on former member". BBC Sport. July 9, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
- "Lawyer for Chuck Blazer confirms his death". @NYTSports. July 12, 2017. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- Carlisle, Jeff (July 12, 2017). "US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati confirmed to ESPN FC via email that Chuck Blazer passed away". @JeffreyCarlisle. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- Ronald Blum (July 12, 2017). "Chuck Blazer, who touched off soccer scandal, dead at 72". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 12, 2017.