Chuck Blazer: The parrot collector turned Fifa whistleblower

Fifa President Sepp Blatter (L) taps the shoulder of Chuck Blazer (R) in Zurich on 1 June 2011Image copyright
AFP

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Chuck Blazer’s (right) whistle-blowing led to Sepp Blatter’s (left) crucial departure

Chuck Blazer was the central figure behind the Fifa corruption scandal, which led to the eventual downfall of the organisation’s president, Sepp Blatter.

But the ex-Fifa executive-turned-whistleblower was also known for leading an eccentric, and often lavish, lifestyle, with reports he had a separate Manhattan flat for his cats and a parrot frequently seen on his shoulder.

He died at the age of 72 in July 2017.

Rise from salesman

For a man whose career has come to epitomise sleaze in football, it may be surprising – or perhaps fitting – that Blazer never actually played the sport himself.

“Chuck is extraordinarily knowledgeable about soccer, but I never detected in him any real passion for the sport,” Doug Logan, another prominent figure in the development of football in the US in the 1990s, told Buzzfeed in an extensive piece in June 2014. “He’s what I’d affectionately call a suit.”

His involvement with football began when he coached his son’s team in the town of New Rochelle, New York state, in the late 1970s.

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Getty Images

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Blazer earned the nickname “Mr Ten Percent” due to his lucrative contract with Concacaf

Blazer’s skills as a salesman and his knowledge of the business side of football saw him rise through regional football organisations in the US, and then on to the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf).

There he teamed up with Trinidadian football administrator Jack Warner to engineer Mr Warner’s election as president of Concacaf in 1990. Mr Warner immediately named Blazer general secretary and put him in charge of the organisation’s operations.

The two moved Concacaf’s headquarters from Guatemala City to the US; it was at this time that Blazer signed a contract with Concacaf that entitled him to 10% commissions on all sponsorship and TV rights deals through his company Sportvertising, giving rise to his nickname of “Mr Ten Percent”.

His pet parrot, and other eccentricities

From 1996 to 2013 he was on Fifa’s Executive Committee. Blazer was not shy about publicising the lifestyle he enjoyed while at Fifa’s upper echelons.

A blog recording his travels documented, amongst other things, his meetings with world leaders and Miss Universe 2011, watching the 2012 Super Bowl in a special suite and his enthusiasm for fancy dress.

He also introduced readers to his pet parrot, a blue-and-gold macaw named Max. Blazer even uploaded a video of the bird dancing on the basket of his mobility scooter in New York’s Central Park.

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His famous blue and white parrot featured in posts on his colourful blog

According to one Sunday Times report, the famous parrot was trained by Blazer’s ex-wife to verbally abuse him after the couple had split up.

He was also rumoured to have kept an apartment just for his cats in New York’s famous Trump Tower skyscraper, as well as one for himself that Mr Warner accused him of paying for with Concacaf funds.

According to a 2013 report by Concacaf’s integrity committee, he also used $48,500 of the organisation’s money to buy a Hummer, which then cost $600 a month to park near his New York office.

FBI sting on a mobility scooter

Mr Warner left Concacaf in 2011 after allegations of corruption and bribery, and Blazer left later that year after learning the new leadership wanted rid of him.

After resigning, he was reported to have said: “This has been the best job in the world, but I need some action. People should seriously consider me for a top CEO.”

His lavish lifestyle began to unravel when it came to light that US investigators were probing confidential payments to offshore accounts operated by Blazer.

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The former Fifa executive was often seen on his motorised scooter

A report on the investigation by the New York Daily News in November 2011 said Blazer was stopped while making his way to a pricey Manhattan restaurant in a mobility scooter by federal agents who had been tracking tax evasion.

“We can take you away in handcuffs now – or you can co-operate,” one of the agents allegedly told Blazer.

He is then said to have agreed to record his colleagues using a microphone hidden in a keychain.

In 2013, he pleaded guilty to bribery, money laundering and tax evasion but agreed to help investigators expose corruption in Fifa. He was banned from all football activities for life in 2015.

According to the New York Times, Blazer had been suffering from rectal cancer for years. His lawyers announced his death on 12 July 2017.

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