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Ex-FIFA Executive Chuck Blazer, Key To Soccer Corruption Case, Has Died At 72

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Chuck Blazer, the man who made millions promoting international soccer before becoming a key figure in a worldwide corruption case, has died at age 72, according to his lawyer.

Blazer — a longtime FIFA executive and leader for CONCACAF, the North American, Central American, and Caribbean soccer alliance — amassed a fortune as he turned Major League Soccer into a booming business in the US and its national team into a World Cup mainstay. In 2015, he was banned from FIFA permanently as a corruption scandal unfolded across world soccer’s leaders.

“His misconduct, for which he accepted full responsibility, should not obscure Chuck’s positive impact on international soccer,” his attorney Mary Mulligan said in a statement. “With Chuck’s guidance and leadership, CONCACAF transformed itself from impoverished to profitable, with substantial benefits and improvements to all member associations, players and fans.”

In 2013, Blazer pleaded guilty to 10 counts including racketeering. His testimony in that case helped the US Department of Justice go after broader corruption within soccer’s governing body.

“Chuck hoped to help bring transparency, accountability, and fair play to CONCACAF, FIFA and soccer as a whole,” his attorney said. “Chuck also accepted responsibility for his own conduct by pleading guilty and owning up to his mistakes. Chuck felt profound sorrow and regret for his actions.”

In the space of two decades, Blazer, born and raised in Queens, rose from the lowest ranks of youth soccer in the New York suburbs to a seat on the most powerful body in global soccer, the FIFA Executive Committee, where he remained from 1997 until 2013. Along the way, he was Executive Vice President of the United States Soccer Federation, chairman of the failed American Soccer League, and, president of the Miami Sharks professional team. From 1990 through 2011, Blazer was general secretary of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, or CONCACAF, one of six global confederations under FIFA.

In his role managing the daily operations of CONCACAF, Blazer was responsible for the creation of the Gold Cup, which showcased the best national teams in the region, as well as numerous other tournaments specific to the region. Under his watch, CONCACAF’s revenue increased dramatically, and the quality of soccer in the region also improved markedly.

But his administration was also marked with deep and persistent corruption perpetrated both by himself and by the Trinidadian soccer official Jack Warner, whom Blazer helped elect as CONCACAF president in 1990. As financial audits would eventually show, Blazer and Warner were responsible for appropriating tens of millions of dollars from the sport for their own use; most of Blazer’s gains came from lucrative contracts that afforded him 10% of every marketing and television dollar that came into the confederation.

In 2011, Blazer secretly agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice in a criminal investigation of international soccer corruption after investigators discovered he had not filed income taxes. For several years, the New Yorker wore a wire at the behest of federal prosecutors as he helped build a sprawling case against soccer officials from over a dozen countries. News of his cooperation was first reported by the New York Daily News in late 2014.

Ken Bensinger is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. His secure PGP fingerprint is 97CC 6E32 10A2 23FE 4E84 98B4 9CFF 4214 9D26 8AA7

Contact Ken Bensinger at ken.bensinger@buzzfeed.com.

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