This post provides documentation for facts in the article on soccer executive Chuck Blazer.
The story is based on public documents; court records; historical press clippings; blogs and other social media; biographies, histories and monographs on soccer; and interviews with more than three-dozen people from the world of sports or from other aspects of Blazer’s life. Many other individuals were contacted for the story but declined to participate or did not return calls. A small number of sources requested anonymity out of concern that their comments or recollections could damage their careers.
Some American soccer officials who worked with Blazer over the past several decades declined or did not respond to requests for comment, including Alan Rothenberg, former president of the U.S. Soccer Federation and ex-president of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Hank Steinbrecher, former general secretary of the USSF. Jack Warner, longtime president of CONCACF and for many years widely viewed as Blazer’s closest ally, commented only to deny all allegations against him. Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, who remains in close contact with Blazer, would not comment for the record.
In the middle of 1989, suburban soccer dad Chuck Blazer had just lost his job, had no income, and was struggling with debt — Deposition in White Plains, N.Y., July 24, 1989.
He’d never actually played the game — Interviews with numerous current and former soccer officials including Kevin Payne, Doug Logan and Hugo Bandi.
Multiple professional leagues had flopped — Numerous histories of soccer in America detail the financial struggles and ultimate disappearances of professional leagues prior to Major League Soccer.
TV networks couldn’t even figure out how to fit commercials into the 90-minute, timeout-free games — Broadcaster ABC interrupted North American Soccer League games with commercials during play, often missing goals. Games were also interrupted with interviews.
The U.S national team hadn’t qualified for a World Cup in nearly 40 years — The U.S. played in the 1950 tournament in Brazil. It did not qualify again until the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Ranked higher than powers such as France and the Netherlands — FIFA rankings as of June 5, 2014.
More people in America are playing soccer than any team sport save basketball — United States Census survey of sports participation, published 2012.
He helped organize the Gold Cup, the Confederations Cup, and the Club World Cup — Interviews with soccer officials including Kevin Payne, Doug Logan, Jeff L’Hote, Richard Motzkin and many others, as well as press accounts.
He has raked in more than $21 million from the sport, much of it paid to offshore shell companies — The CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation, released April 18, 2013, extensively details Blazer’s finances at the organization, including his total compensation and use of offshore companies.
Flew around the world in the first class cabin —CONCACAF annual 990 tax filings, 2007-2011; filed retroactively, Dec. 2012. Blazer’s flying habits were also described in interviews with several former CONCACAF employees, including Jill Fracisco, Mel Brennan and others, who called his plane trips “Air FIFA.”
Lived in an $18,000-a-month apartment high above the glitziest stretch of New York’s Fifth Avenue, and relaxed in a luxury condo in the Bahamas — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation, detailed the confederation’s payments toward Blazer’s living expenses. Blazer’s apartment is on the same block as the Tiffany & Co. flagship store.
It entitled him to 10% — under his unilateral interpretation — of just about every penny the organization brought in — Signed copy of Blazer’s original CONCACAF contract, detailing terms. The CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation found he laid claim to 10% of revenue that did not appear to fall under the terms of the contract.
Ultimately would be called a swindler by the very organization that he led for 21 years — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
FIFA said it was suspending its own investigation into Blazer’s activities — FIFA news release, Aug. 2, 2013.
“I’m perfectly satisfied that I did an excellent job” — Blazer quoted in May 2012.
Blazer has maintained repeatedly he was entitled to everything he got under the terms of his contract, and that CONCACAF still owes him millions of dollars — The CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation found that Blazer believed he was “entitled to the compensation he received” and that “he believes he is entitled to” $7 million more.
“Chuck is one of the most important people in the history of soccer in this country” — Press account of remarks by MLS Commissioner Don Garber at a 2006 MLS gala reception in which Blazer received the commissioner’s award.
Every member nation is granted exactly one vote — FIFA Statutes.
Soccer from Panama City to the Arctic Circle, including the U.S., is overseen by CONCACAF — CONCACAF was founded in 1961 with nine original member nations. It now has 41, 35 of which are also FIFA members.
Brought the unemployed Blazer in November 1989 to Port of Spain — Interview with soccer executive Kevin Payne; detailed account of the trip in Jack Warner’s biography, Upwards Through the Night: The Biography of Austin Jack Warner, by Valentino Singh; Lexicon Trinidad Limited (1998).
A legendary Paul Caliguiri goal known as the Shot Heard Round the World — The looping 35 year old goal ensured a 1-0 victory for the U.S. team and its first World Cup appearance since 1950. Trinidad was eliminated.
The two first met in 1984 — This and other details of the November 1989 meeting, including quotes, are taken from Upwards Through the Night as well as interviews with Kevin Payne and Lasana Liburd, who were in in Trinidad for the soccer match.
Would come to call the diminutive former schoolteacher his “best friend” — As quoted in Upwards Through the Night.
Warner won with three times as many votes as the incumbent — The final vote, not including abstentions, was 18-6, according to Upwards Through the Night. It also details Warner’s appointing Blazer: “I went to the USA and told Chuck Blazer, one of the top international businessmen in that country, that I wanted him to be my General Secretary.”
Unlike his predecessors, who focused on organizing rinky-dink tournaments — Prior to Blazer’s time at CONCACAF, the confederation had far fewer tournaments, mostly focused around World Cup qualifying. The U.S. rarely participated.
On July 31, 1990, he signed the contract that would guide the rest of his career — Date of signing and subsequent details of contract terms taken from signed copy of CONCACAF retainer agreement with Sportvertising.
A seven-month old New York Company he founded and controlled with the unlikely name of Sportvertising — New York state corporation records.
Who Called Blazer “one of the top international businessmen” in the U.S. — Upwards Through the Night.
Warner, in remarks last year, recalled that Blazer’s wife initially paid CONCACAF’s rent — Warner mentioned the rent in a public response to CONCACAF’s investigation last year.
He grew up working behind the counter at his family’s stationery store and newsstand, Blazer’s, in Rego Park — Interviews with numerous classmates, including Sherwood “Woody” Salvan; Murray Vale; Phyllis (Fuhrman) Lerner, and Amy Zakheim. Additional information from Michael Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council.
He went to Forest Hills High School — This and subsequent information about Blazer’s school activities obtained from a copy of 1961 Forest Hills High School yearbook as well as interviews with contemporaries.
Married his high school sweetheart — Interviews with numerous high school contemporaries; Susan Blazer, née Aufox, declined comment.
Blazer ran a button factory in Queens owned by his father-in-law — Interviews with Sherwood Salvan, Marvin Lieberman, Bernard Spain, Robert Slater, and Peter Grit.
Turned to selling other promotional and marketing items — According to interviews with Lieberman, Spain, Slater, Grit and Fred Singer, Blazer spent at least 15 years in what’s known as the “premiums” business, selling and distributing marketing and promotional items, including to corporate clients, cruise operators and other businesses.
In 1976, Blazer’s son, Jason, started playing youth soccer — Press clippings, including this profile.
Scarcely 100,000 children were even playing the game in America — From a survey of youth soccer participation, “Youth Soccer in the United States,” published in the Gamma Theta Upsilon Geographical Bulletin, May 1994.
Blazer began coaching his son’s team, with his flexible sales work giving him plenty of free time to get deeply involved in the sport — Press reports and interviews, including with Fred Singer.
Perhaps the first time Blazer leveraged soccer to his financial advantage came in 1981 — Information on Blazer’s consulting, loan and subsequent lawsuit come from interviews with Fred Singer and the court record from the lawsuit, filed in Westchester Supreme Court in 1984.
Singer drew up the papers and transferred $27,332.40 to Blazer’s company — A copy of the promissory note is in the court record.
In 1984, the United States Soccer Federation — Information on 1984 elections and Blazer’s campaign culled from numerous press reports, books (cited below) and interviews with soccer executives including Doug Logan and Kevin Payne.
The body had no revenue strategy, almost no money — Press coverage.
A tournament he was organizing — The U.S. beat El Salvador 3-1 on Oct. 9, 1984 and Colombia 1-0 on Oct. 11 before a combined audience of 53,000 people.
Between 1981 and 1983, the team played only two matches — The national team played a total of 56 matches in the 1980s; that increased to 199 matches in the 1990s.
But perhaps most important, Blazer’s position required him to sit on the board of CONCACAF, where he would meet Warner — Press reports and Upwards Through The Night, which details the first meeting of Blazer and Warner at a CONCACAF Congress in Tobago, the country’s smaller island.
Blazer’s tenure at the USSF ended quickly — Press accounts of Blazer’s defeat as well as an interview with Hank Des Bordes.
He co-founded the American Soccer League — Blazer launched the league with Clive Toye, former General Manager of the New York Cosmos. Accounts of founding of league and its finances from Blazer’s blog, and numerous contemporary press accounts.
Five teams plunked down the $10,000 startup fee — Press reports.
The ASL had imposed a salary cap limiting each team to $50,000 — Press reports.
He initially paid himself $48,000 a year — Blazer discussed his compensation at the ASL, as well as pay and benefits at the Miami Sharks in his July 1989 deposition in the loan dispute with Fred Singer.
This one was called New Markets International — Blazer discussed his use of a shell corporation or DBA to receive compensation as commissioner of the ASL and president of the Miami Sharks in his 1989 deposition.
Blazer paid himself $72,000 — July 1989 deposition.
CONCACAF took offices on the 17th floor of the Trump Tower — CONCACAF’s initial New York headquarters were in a small office in a building at 715 5th Avenue, across the street from the Trump Tower, but the confederation soon found space in the luxury building. A detailed account, with Blazer’s comments, is in Upwards Through the Night.
CONCACAF brought in just over $1 million — CONCACAF Integrity Report of Investigation.
CONCACAF had $60 million in revenue on just $31 million in expenses — CONCACAF annual tax filings.
Between 1991 and 1995, he took in more than $1 million — CONCACAF Integrity Report of Investigation.
The next day, July 18, 1994, he and Warner signed a new one with nearly the same terms — Details of Blazer’s second contract and the Sportvertising entity in the Cayman Islands from the CONCACAF Integrity Report of Investigation.
More than two-dozen state and federal tax liens — Based on liens registered in New York state against Blazer and numerous entities he controlled, including CONCACAF and the New York corporation En Passant Ltd.
He admitted in a deposition to not having filed personal income taxes for at least three consecutive years — July 1989 deposition.
The IRS revoked CONCACAF’s status as a tax-exempt organization — Internal Revenue Service records.
Created multiple layers of holding companies — CONCACAF Integrity Report of Investigation as well as numerous public records. A partial list of Blazer controlled DBAs includes En Passant Ltd, En Passant Inc., Windmill Productions, Sandcastle Distributors, Sunset Lighthouse Ltd., Fornacis Ltd., Geminorum Ltd, Blazer Entertainment, Sports & Talent Management Inc., Blazer Entertainment, Sports & Technology Inc., and Multisport Games Development.
The confederation’s controller, who had no formal training in accounting — CONCACAF Integrity Report of Investigation.
Between 1991 and 2011, when he left the confederation, Blazer made nearly $22 million — CONCACAF Integrity Report of Investigation.
His take of the pot was nearly twice the compensation of all other CONCACAF employees and directors — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation and CONCACAF 990 tax filings indicate that Blazer made roughly $5 million in 2011, while all other salaries and compensation at CONCACAF were scarcely $3 million.
His pay was brought up only three times before CONCACAF’s executive committee — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
After his second contract expired in 1998, Blazer never signed another — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
FIFA Gave $3 million to CONCACAF to build a TV studio — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
In 2008 he attended the Republican National Convention as a friend and family guest of Sen. John McCain — Blazer’s personal blog.
Blazer traveled to the Kremlin for a personal visit with Vladimir Putin — Blazer’s personal blog.
He said he chose Russia — Blazer spoke to the press following the vote, explaining his decision.
His social circle included showbiz figures such as Law & Order creator Dick Wolf and TV sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer — Information on Blazer’s friends comes from interviews with numerous former CONCACAF employees, including Jill Fracisco and Mel Brenna, as well as several others whom requested anonymity because they still work in the soccer industry; photos of Blazer with Westheimer and Elaine Kaufman on Blazer’s blog.
He once took 40 people to dine at Spago — Interviews with Jill Fracisco and two former CONCACAF employees who requested anonymity.
Blazer had CONCACAF pick up not only his work expenses but many personal ones as well — Information on Blazer’s handling of expenses is detailed extensively in the CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
Blazer has lived in three different apartments in the Trump Tower — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
Much of which CONCACAF covered — CONCACAF paid $6,000 of Blazer’s monthly rent as a business expense, and the remaining $12,000 was deducted from fees owed to Blazer. CONCACAF checks were made out directly to the landlord and signed by Blazer.
In 2011 alone, he received $259,000 in “personal residence expenses” — CONCACAF 990 tax returns.
CONCACAF also bought, for Blazer’s personal use, a $48,500 Hummer SUV — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
Would deduct personal expenses — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
CONCACAF remitted at least $1.4 million toward the purchase of a time share — Information on the Bahamas apartment — including Blazer’s accounting decisions and his use of an offshore holding company — is detailed in the CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
The confederation also paid $810,000 for adjoining South Beach apartments — Details of the Miami apartments are found in the CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
He at times used for companions to accompany him when traveled — CONCACAF 990 tax filings; interviews with former CONCACAF as cited above.
In 1995, Blazer’s wife, Susan, filed for divorce — New York Supreme Court records.
Actress and author named Mary Lynn Blanks — Her TV career is detailed on IMDB.com. Blazer uploaded some of her commercials to Youtube.com. Blanks appears many times as a travel companion times on Blazer’s blog, and a prior blog he maintained; in addition, interviews with numerous soccer officials, including former CONCACAF employees Jill Fracisco and Mel Brennan, as well as others that requested anonymity, confirm them having a long term romantic relationship.
Was given office space in the CONCACAF headquarters free of charge — Interviews with Jill Fracisco, Mel Brennan and two other former CONCACAF employees who requested anonymity.
CONCACAF employed Blazer’s son, Jason, a physical therapist, as director of its medical department — Jason Blazer lists his CONCACAF employment on his LinkedIn page; his pay is detailed in CONCACAF’s 990 tax filings.
Blazer’s daughter, Marci, an attorney, served on FIFA’s legal committee — List of FIFA committees, 2002-2006.
One check, to IndyMac Bank in the amount of $1,827.70 — CONCACAF check made out directly to bank.
Using a DBA called MultiSport Games Development Inc. — Blazer created Multisport in 1999 and registered it at his home address. In 2000, he formed Global Interactive Gaming along with Kirch Media. It licensed the betting technology.
CONCACAF commissions were paid directly to MultiSport — Examples of such checks are here.
Blazer also raised at least $1.5 million — Federal court records show an investment by Mexican businessman Alejandro Burillo. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Kirch declared bankruptcy — News reports.
Had actually been paying ESPN to show its matches — Press reports.
Allegedly engineered the sale of 60% more ticket than there were seats — Numerous accounts in Trinidadian press; a fuller account is also in Upwards Through the Night.
Almost 35,000 people managed to squeeze into a stadium built to hold 28,500 — Upwards Through the Night and press reports.
Allegedly appropriated nearly $200,000 donated to aid Haiti — Numerous press accounts describe as much as 440,000 British pounds being sent to Haiti; at least $250,000 was wired through the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation, controlled by Warner, but Haiti’s soccer federation reported receiving only $60,000 of that.
He called the 1989 ticket scandal “a lot of noise and press” — Blazer interview with Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal.
Chalked it up to changes in ticketing policies, saying, “it sounds worse than it was” — Blazer interview with Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal.
He complained that while Australia had given him a pricey gift bag — Accounts in UK press.
Blazer reversed an earlier plan to acquire adjacent condos for him and Warner — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
On May 24, 2011, Blazer informed FIFA of an alleged attempt by Warner — There are many accounts of the bribery investigation, and the non-profit site History Commons provides a timeline.
A secret videotape — The video of Warner’s speech is available here, along with a transcript.
The Court for Arbitration of Sport ultimately annulled that ban — Full ruling, dated July 19, 2012, found here.
Who would collect nearly $5 million from CONCACAF that year — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
Blazer learned that CONCACAF’s new leadership planned to terminate him — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
He instructed CONCACAF’s Florida bank to pay $1.4 million — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
He continued to access his office at the confederation until the following April — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
Warner unleashed his own allegations — Warner spoke to the BBC and other outlets, making a number of accusations.
CONCACAF appointed a retired U.S. federal judge — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
Contacted by investigators, Blazer said the confederation owed him $7 million — CONCACAF Integrity Committee Report of Investigation.
Blazer announced he would not seek reelection — Press accounts.
Initially said he would usher in new transparency by disclosing his FIFA compensation — Gulati told the Associated Press in April 2013 that he would reveal his pay.
FIFA suspended Blazer for various breaches of its code of ethics — Press reports.
Congratulate his Russian friend Valery Gergiev — Most recent entry in Blazer’s blog, dated Feb. 9, 2014.
Blazer underwent surgery for an undisclosed illness — Brief telephone conversation with Blazer, who declined further comment and subsequently did not respond to phone messages, emails and a couriered letter.
On a February evening in 1986 — Details of the Collin Fowles’ death in press reports. Numerous outlets, and particularly the South Florida Sun Sentinel, covered the game extensively. Blazer’s decision to charge the 10% fee was the subject of an editorial. “We’re not trying to take money away from anybody,” Blazer told the paper. “But the rule does not provide for exceptions.”
Partial list of books consulted
Singh, Valentino. Upwards Through the Night: The Biography of Austin Jack Warner. Lexicon Trinidad Limited, 1988.
Jennings, Andew. Omerta: Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Organized Crime Family. Transparency Books, 2014.
Jennings, Andrew. Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals. HarperSport, 2006.
Hopkins, Gary. Star-Spangled Soccer: the Selling, Marketing and Management of Soccer in the USA. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.