- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

GENEVA (AP) - FIFA has fined the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association for financial wrongdoing linked to a development project.

The Caribbean member broke rules by agreeing to mortgage its technical center, which was largely paid for by FIFA, the governing body said Thursday.

The ABFA has been fined 30,000 Swiss francs ($33,800) and reprimanded by FIFA’s disciplinary panel.

Accounting rules for FIFA spending were tightened as part of anti-corruption reforms following a 2011 election bribery scandal which implicated Caribbean officials, including two from Antigua and Barbuda.

Describing the mortgage deal as an “inadvertent oversight,” the federation said it was needed to help fund the national team’s World Cup qualifying matches.

“This arrangement with the bank was for the sole purpose of the further development of football in Antigua and Barbuda via participation in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers which is mandatory for all members of FIFA,” ABFA president Everton Gonsalves said in a statement on the federation’s website.

However, entry is not mandatory and World Cup regulations state only that its member countries “may participate.” Four of FIFA’s more than 200 eligible members chose not to join the 2014 qualifying rounds.

Antigua and Barbuda advanced through one regional qualifying round, then placed last in a four-team group won by the United States.

Gonsalves said the cost of playing was “daunting to say the least,” but the federation had been “overwhelmed with joy, a sense of national pride and patriotism and with so little time to prepare.”

The mortgage was reported to FIFA by a football club in Antigua following the ABFA election last May, Gonsalves said.

FIFA imposed sanctions after the federation missed a Feb. 10 deadline to provide proof that the Antigua Commercial Bank no longer had a charge on the football land.

Like all FIFA members, the ABFA receives an annual grant of $250,000 from Zurich.

The federation has also received $1.4 million since 2000 to modernize the training center on the island of Antigua, according to FIFA reports.

“We wish to assure and reassure our members and our colleagues in FIFA that the FIFA Goal Project remains under the ownership of the ABFA,” Gonsalves said.

FIFA has budgeted to spend $34 million this year on its Goal program, which helps fund development work for its national members.

In the 2011 case, Gonsalves and ABFA general secretary Gordon Derrick received minor sanctions from FIFA’s ethics committee for their involvement.

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