CONCACAF's new General Secretary talks corruption, promoting the Champions League outside the region and a possible deal to include the region's top teams in the Copa America.
Enrique Sanz is so new at CONCACAF that just a few moments before his interview with Goal.com was scheduled to start, Sanz had to look up a list of extension numbers to contact fellow co-workers.
And yet, the Colombian-born Sanz is no stranger to the region's governing body, as he worked closely with the federation as Vice President of Traffic Sports USA, a marketing agency that has largely been involved with organizing and commercializing the Gold Cup, among other regional events.
Just months after scandal tore through CONCACAF and wiped its last administrators off the grid, the General Secretary is a part of a new group determined to make sure these issues are a thing of the past.
Goal.com: Until very recently, you negotiated with CONCACAF on behalf of a business group and now you'll sit at that same negotiating table representing the opposing side.
Sanz: Yes, it's certainly a change in perspective. I've been in the business of marketing football in CONCACAF for 13 years now. It's because of that I know all of the region's presidents.
I was surprised at President Webb's invitation (to join as General Secretary), especially because the Committee's confirmation vote was unanimous.
And for me, it's a challenge that I take with great responsibility. Now my interests are to be a watchdog over individual federations, their national teams and their clubs. It's a far larger objective.Goal.com: Have you completely shed all ties with Traffic or any specific team? Do you still have any stock or lingering role?
Sanz: No, with Traffic I was involved either directly or indirectly with them for 13 years and I started as an entry-level employee working my way up to Vice President.
But I was never the owner, or had stock with them or any soccer team. Whatever work I did with soccer teams was always representing Traffic and never individually.
Maybe at some point I should have asked to [be involved like that], but I didn't. That's why I've been able to leave and disassociate myself much faster and cleaner.
Goal.com: What are you going to work on to avoid corruption the way it affected CONCACAF in the past, even involving people such as your predecessor, Chuck Blazer and former President Jack Warner?
Sanz: Our main topic is reform. We'll implement a complete reform in CONCACAF. No one decision will be taken by one person. We'll create committees on ethics, integrity and transparency that will be above us all.
Businesses (negotiating with CONCACAF) will be recommended by them to the Executive Committee which will then make the decisions.
These will be more ample processes in which the region's Congress can have an open participation on all levels of decision making.
Goal.com: Is there anything being done to deal with the previous cases of corruption?
Sanz: There are processes that are taking these cases to justice. The results and decisions that come of this will create new standards of behavior at CONCACAF so that the actions are never again repeated.
There are investigations currently being done for alleged match-fixing under the responsibility of FIFA and Interpol on a worldwide level and in which CONCACAF is cooperating openly.
At the end of the day, our thought is that fans and advertisers alike have to concentrate on the sport itself, which is what matters.
Goal.com: If your office had to be won via election, what would you base your campaign on?
Sanz: Firstly, reorganization of CONCACAF on an administrative level. People who work here are very capable, and the political problems here in the past have never made it so that a single match went unplayed. You have to applaud that, but we must be more efficient.
Secondly, be more inclusive. We need to talk more to federations, media, sponsors and teams. Everyone has to grow.
Finally, the growth of the sport in the region. We need to keep developing this until we reach an excellent level of competition. We want our clubs and our national teams to have a platform to be the best.
Goal.com: Would you say that Mexico and the United States have the biggest influence and authority over CONCACAF?
Sanz: I don't think so. That's been criticized in the past, that FIFA and individual confederations should give some countries more than one vote based on their power or tradition within the sport.
I can tell you I've heard that outside of CONCACAF, some countries have asked for that to happen. The Executive Committee is divided geographically and its equal. I don't think some countries have more influence than others.
Goal.com: Coming from the business world, how will you make it so that these types of companies don't have too much power in CONCACAF?
Sanz: What I can bring is a lot more knowledge as to how these businesses work. It's normal that you would have relationships with them to get certain things done. But now we make direct contact with them instead of using intermediaries.
Goal.com: What will you do so that CONCACAF's reputation on the pitch is a better one?
Sanz: I think it's very important that we promote our tournaments. We're going to look for a partner to sell our transmission rights outside of the continent.
We must support the growth of smaller leagues and domestic tournaments so that we have more players go out and become well-known in Europe. We've grown a lot recently, but it's necessary to keep growing.Goal.com: What do you think about competing in Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana?
Sanz: First, we need to focus on making the CONCACAF Champions League better. Then we'll think about that, and use friendlies over the summer, the way we're doing right now in the United States.
We need to really investigate if the reason why we don't participate in those tournaments is truly economic or not. The topic at hand is analyzing whether those competitions are more favorable in terms of the opposition.
Goal.com: Will CONCACAF wait for an invitation to these tournaments or will you go out and lobby for it?
Sanz: We've analyzed whether it's good for us to be proactive with that sort of thing. I'm not here to answer calls, I'm here to make them. We need to really make an analysis and determine if it's good and viable to talk to CONMEBOL or whomever to negotiate this sort of thing.
Goal.com: What do you know about the Copa America that CONCACAF would play with CONMEBOL?
Sanz: That's a possibility. We've talked about it for a while now. We'll keep discussing it and whether it's important for CONCACAF. We need to always decide for things that will benefit us. Right now, nothing's decided on that particular subject.
Goal.com: You'll have a seat on FIFA's General Secretaries Committee.
Sanz: Our first meeting is in September and my expectation is to bring back knowledge from other confederations and put those things into practice so we can adapt and learn from other regions. That's my main project. We need to grow and reach other confederations.
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