Ruperto Vicente was elected President of the FFB in March of 2012, and tonight, almost exactly 4 years later, he is on the verge of being kicked out. A meeting is underway at this hour where Vicente's executive committee has reportedly passed a no confidence vote against him.
Now, the meeting was called for by Vice President Sergio Chuc, against Vicente's wishes, and he and the General Secretary Michael Blease reportedly did try to stop it. And the reason they wanted to block it is because Chuc called to meeting for the stated reason, quote "to suspend (Vicente) as member and president of FFB." Chuc had the support of the majority of the executive committee which is three members.
Chuc's letter to Vicente says the suspension is, quote, "due to your ongoing documented history of engaging in and/or permitting improper activities in violation of FFB Statutes 2011."
Now, the other reason for the meeting is what a majority of the executive believes is the, quote "improper manner in which District Association elections have been conducted in violation of numerous rules that govern the FFB and the FIFA Code of Ethics."
This comes as the FFB is preparing for district elections and there are allegations that Vicente and his General Secretary Michael Blease are railroading the election by disallowing challenges to their district loyalist chairmen. Ludrick Sheppard in Orange Walk is one aspiring chairman who says he's being blocked out. Here's what he told CTV-3:
Ladrick Sheppard, Aspiring Chairman "As this moment I am putting my name to run for the district chairman. At this moment, a little confused or lost. We don't know who are the delegates that are supposed to be elected? Who are supposed to elect us at this moment? That was supposed to be handed quite a while now and we haven't gotten that. That's the reason why we are confused, because we don't know who to talk to so that we can get elected."
Reporter "How much time do you all have to get that done?"
Ladrick Sheppard, Aspiring Chairman "The funny thing is time is running on us and the deadline for adding in your name is Monday. That's the final date and if we don't get nominated by Monday, there is no way we can challenge Mr. Avila for the next upcoming election on March 13th."
Reporter "If by Monday you don't get nominated, you don't get to submit your names and then that means you can't run for the elections?"
Ladrick Sheppard, Aspiring Chairman "Yeah, that's it right there."
As you heard, Sheppard has until Monday to get his name in. Now, with today's reported suspension of President Vicente, a lot could change in the FFB - but we are told the matter of the president's suspension now has to go to the ethics committee. The process remains fluid. Vicente's term will end in April.
He's under heavy fire from within, but tonight Ruperto Vincente is still holding on as President of the FFB.
Last night, we told you about the bold attempt by three members of the executive committee to suspend their own president.
Senior Vice President Sergio Chuc, and executive members Marlon Kuylen and Cruz Gamez used their majority to pass a motion to suspend Vicente. That's after they forced a meeting, which General secretary Michael Blease and Vicente tried to block, because the main item on the agenda was the suspension of Vicente.
But they couldn't block it, and that resolution was passed in the afternoon, but coming unto evening, President Vicente, refusing to accept his suspension, called a meeting with a number of the FFB Congress Members. The FFB Congress is the highest decision-making body of football in Belize, and after this impromptu meeting, it was decided that the suspension would be put on hold until a legal interpretation from FIFA and CONCACAF was forthcoming.
Our colleagues from Plus TV camped out at the FFB headquarters until late into the night when the meeting with the Congress Members concluded, and they spoke with Senior Vice President, Sergio Chuc, one of the men who was pushing for Vicente's suspension:
Sergio Chuc, Senior VP - FFB Executive "The vote went through. However, at this stage we are still looking after legal; interpretation. We sat down on the second meeting with the majority of congress members and there was a back and forth, if is the correct, if the executive have the power or does not have the power to suspend the president. It's on pause for a day or two until we could get a legal written interpretation."
The War Of Words: Ruperto Vs. The Rebels
So, right now, the FFB is in a precarious situation, and the president is waiting to see if his suspension stands. The other 3 executive committee members are holding their ground; they say Vicente is bad for football and he has to go.
All this is unfolding just 6 weeks before elections are due for the entire FFB executive.
But, now, this fight - brewing for months behind closed doors - has erupted into public view.
The main complaint that the Chuc, Kuylen and Gamez have against their President is that he has been making unilateral decisions, without consultation, and sometimes even after they've counseled him against a policy direction. Next, they complain that he has given General Secretary Michael Blease too much authority to make decisions that only the president ought to be able to make.
Finally, they're accusing Vicente of rigging the district elections in his favor, to ensure his re-election in April. Now, that's a heavy charge to lay against Vicente, after all he was elected a platform of transparency and accountability. Not only that, but the man he replaced, Dr. Bertie Chimilio was accused of doing the same thing!
Vicente, for his part, isn't having any of it. He claims that his executive members are trying to drag his name in the mud so that they can railroad his re-election attempt. Today, we had an extensive back and forth with both sides on a number of the issues. It's lengthy, but bear with us as we challenge both sides to their issues and counter-issues. Here Ruperto Vicente and Marlon Kuylen rebutting each other:
Daniel Ortiz "They are suggesting a Bertie Chimilio route of leadership when he was run out of office because he was rigging the elections in his favor. Are you so doing something like that similar?"
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "Well that cannot happen, because we have an electoral committee and the congress elected an electoral committee and that electoral committee takes charge of the elections."
Marlon Kuylen, Executive Member "It's sad to say, but the difference with Bertie Chimilio, he was smart and that's the big difference. But yes the style and everything exact the same."
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "The electoral committee views all the applications and they indicate which one is legal and which is not. Which is filled out properly and which is not. These are professional people whom we've asked to serve the federation and to say that the elections are being manipulated means that you are telling us that those people whom we have elected, private citizens, people who have nothing to do with football, are cheating the system? No, that is wrong. And I think those people who are saying that, those executive members who are saying that - who are accusing these people, including the president as manipulating elections, should be suspended. We have got to take that clearly - they have to be suspended, because they are accusing these people wrongly. So the electoral committee is in charge of elections. Mr. Vicente does not interfere with elections. I will not participate in it."
Marlon Kuylen, Executive Member "In October, the general secretary and the president were trying to have endorsements in all the districts. We got wind of it. I personally wrote to CONCACAF, the legal department and they called in and say you need to get the proper procedures in place. So we had an extraordinary congress where we elected the electoral committee and the appeals committee and then the process started again. However, the information is not being presented to the people - the aspiring persons. In other words, if you are going to have elections, everybody in that area supposed to know when will be the elections, where, who you need to contact to get the nominations, but these things are not happening and the time is running out and so what is in effect happening again is mostly, we are not saying everybody, but mostly endorsements is still happening again."
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "The suspension is because these men are of the opinion that they cannot win an election against me. They can't win an election and so they want to go into an election without me as their opponent."
Marlon Kuylen, Executive Member "We don't want his job. What we want, is this is the last opportunity to take a stance and that's why we are waiting until now, because either way it goes, we want people to know and rest of the football family that we are not condoning these actions. We have been speaking about it. Internally we are trying to deal with it, but it's not going anywhere and also we have to send a message to FIFA and CONCACAF that they need to step in."
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "These people had been in the federation and they have not done anything for football. The success of our football federation largely depends because I had made important decisions. I have made decisions that is of the best interest of football in this country. That's the reason we are experiencing success."
Marlon Kuylen, Executive Member "That's total nonsense. You know what would be the ideal situation for us right now, have FIFA send a normalization committee, the come in and review everything that's going on here and I will specifically ask that they come and look at the electoral code and guide us. In fact I would like for them to come and take over that organization and let us move forward."
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "Why would you seek to suspend the president at this time 6 weeks before an election? Why didn't you do it year and a half ago - two years ago? Because they had the same complain that I was making decisions on my own two years ago. So they should have made the suspension then. Why now? It is because they have a motive. They cannot stand against me in election. So I am calling them out - come and beat me in election day, because I will beat them."
Reporter "Mr. Chuc wants your position?"
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "Everybody. He want the position. So I beg the question now why is Mr. Chuc so possess? Why is he posses with the presidency of the federation? Why does he wants it and even have it by force?"
Marlon Kuylen, Executive Member "Why would us after being elected of all gung ho about writing this ship - we got rid of a tyrant? And then 6 months down the road we start having problems and then all your executive turned against you. Something must be drastically wrong for that to happen. We can't continue seeing these illegalities happening and not doing anything about it. Our reputations are important to us and we are tired of our names being dragged in the mud because of the actions of the general secretary and president by condoning it. At this point I am willing to walk away. But at the same time, we had to take this stance."
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "If you don't like the way we are doing our work, if you don't like the way we are dealing with football? Do the honorable thing - resigned! Resign! Rather than coming here and say oh we are going to suspend the president. No man. Go your way. Resign and let the embarrassment come at me."
Marlon Kuylen, Executive Member "First of all we thought of all resigning, but then we were advised that we can't do anything from being on the outside, you have to be on the inside to try to make the changes."
So, what about this issue of the 3 accusing Vicente of taking unilateral decisions which have gone badly for Belize's football in the past 4 years? We asked both sides about that complaint and here's what they told us:
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "We have the executive decisions and we have administrative decisions. When the executive makes a decision it comes to us at ground, then I as the president can also make adjustments, administrative adjustments to those executive decisions."
Marlon Kuylen, Executive Member "Listen, when you sit in meetings and you pass resolutions and it's limited and then you walk out of the meeting and decisions that you have already passed in the meetings are not being done. Then you sort of wondering if it is undermining or do you even meet, why do you even discuss these things if our resolutions are not being adhere to?"
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "We had agree that we would not send the football to Guatemala. But when we wrote UNCAF and telling them that we would not participate in the tournament, UNCAF immediately sent us a letter saying no, the tournament had been registered with FIFA and so we have to participate and these are the sanctions if you fail to participate. So administratively I had to decide that we were going to participate, because it would have been a lot cheaper to participate than to endure the consequence of not participating."
Marlon Kuylen, Executive Member "Yes, I agree with him that there are some administrative decisions that need to be made. But all you need to do is pick up the phone and call us or sent us a text or something and say you know guys I know we agree to this, but this is the way it has to go because of so and so and we will accept that. This man goes out of the country, we don't know and by right the senior vice president is supposed to take over when he leaves. We hear about stuff happening in the federation from the media. I wake up in the morning and I listen to Ruben so that I could get information of what's happening in the federation and that's totally nonsense man."
While all this is taking place, the football community has to again witness infighting from their sport's governing body. We asked both sides about that, and today, not surprisingly, they had starkly contrasting views. Here's what they told us:
Reporter "Sir, you do realize how this internal battle looks in the public? It looks like everybody wants power. What do you think about that, how the public may perceive of what's happening within the FFB, within the executive of the FFB?"
Marlon Kuylen, Executive Member "That's exactly what we did not want. That's why we try to alright this problem internally. But it has gotten to a point and we've written CONCACAF, we've written FIFA and we have had no response from them. This is the last stance we could take. There is nothing about power. I know it will look bad, but I could guarantee you that I could walk away from this today, but I had to do this what I am doing right now. Again, our reputation is at stake and I am not going to have somebody ruin my reputation."
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "I would not call it an embarrassment. I think it is good for football, that we need to continue to learn and FIFA will come in to educate us. It is not an embarrassment because FIFA is not coming to break up our house. FIFA is only coming to assist us in what we are doing, in better managing football, better administrating our football - that's what FIFA is coming to do. So for me it is not an embarrassment."
As soon as the decision on Vicente's suspension is in, we'll share it with you. We'll also have a little more on this back and forth next week, in which we'll ask the President about his alleged indulgence of Secretary General Michael Blease and the perceived negative effects his decisions have had on the FFB's management of football.
Right now, the football community continues to wait for FIFA and CONCACAF to return a written verdict on whether or not Ruperto Vicente, the President of the Football Federation of Belize, is suspended.
As we told you, there's been a very private fight happening within the FFB's Executive Committee, who say that Vicente's leadership of local football has not been in the best interest of the sport. More significant than that harsh criticism is the open accusation that he's leadership direction is similar to his predecessor, Dr. Bertie Chimilio, who was voted out of office after battling scandals of his own of allegedly fixing the District Association Elections. The accusation is that since Vicente has been manipulating the District Association, he's been positioning his sympathizers to win at that level, so that he could ensure his re election goes off without a hitch.
Vicente, in response to the pressure from his Executive, have responded that these members have not contributed to the development of football as they should have as elected members over the last 4 years. He has also countered with his own accusation that his executive members, Sergio Chuc, Cruz Gamez, and Marlon Kuylen, have been trying to drag his name in the mud so that they can make a play for the presidency, a post he hopes to be re-elected to in the next few weeks.
But, in the meantime, Vicente has to continue his duties as President of the FFB while he current term runs its course. Today, he flew out of the country to attend the elections for FIFA and CONCACAF in Zurich Switzerland. Now, as viewers remember, the biggest corruption scandal in the Football World erupted last year, under the leadership of FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter, who was only just re-elected. As viewers remember, Blatter made the sensational move to step down last year, and so, an Extraordinary Congress has been called for February 26 to elect his replacement. We caught up with Vicente at the Airport today:
Reporter "You trip today is for Switzerland for that election?"
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "Yes, it's for both elections. We will have an election for CONCACAF president as well as FIFA's presidency."
Daniel Ortiz "Is Belize, under your leadership still supporting Joseph Sepp Blatter for president?"
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "No. In Central America we vote as a block. We look at what is most important for Central America. And as well, since we will be having a meeting tomorrow, we will be looking at what is best for CONCACAF. But Central America block as decided on who we should be supporting, but that is going to be confirmed tomorrow."
Daniel Ortiz "The last time we asked you this question, you did tell us that Belize specifically would support Mr. Blatter. Has that changed?"
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "We supported president Blatter based on his agenda and his agenda suited Belize's agenda, because we are a developing nation, we are developing in football and his agenda was to develop football in all countries that are not developed."
Daniel Ortiz "Is it a concern of yours that right now Mr. Blatter have not been accused of any wrong doing, but despite that, the biggest corruption scandal has taken place under his leadership? Is worrying for you that the taint of that will come to Belize specifically where you are embattled at this current moment?"
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "It is clear and I have said before that Central America has decided on who to vote for. That decision is not on President Blatter."
So, while the rest of the football world tries to get past that scandal in FIFA, here at home, Vicente's embattled presidency is only just coming into public focus.
This internal feuding has been exposed only a few weeks before FFB elections, but what appears to be a brewing problem, is actually a release in pressure building up from since 2012 when this new executive was elected to office. The President spoke frankly with the press for probably the first time about the internal problems he's been having with his executives:
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "Remember that all of us did not come from the same team. There were 3 slates that went up for elections; Dr. Chimilio's slate, my slate and and Mr. Gerald Henry slate. We came from different slates. So from the very first executive meeting, there was disagreement. And so it is important for us to understand that. From then forward it was always disagreements. There was never a team that took over the federation and now we are asking the delegates that we elect an executive that is made up of one team. If I loses, then my team must lose. If that person who is running for president loses, then his team must lose. It is not healthy to have a divided executive. Because there is hardly anything that can be achieved. We could not change policies because of the rift. A lot of the success that is experience by this federation it is as a result of me taking decisions and also going to the congress members and seek their support to make those decisions. Mr. Cruz Gamez and Mr. Kuylen came from Mr. Gerald Henry's slate. Mr. Chuc came from my slate, but it is clear that Mr. Chuc was only on my slate to get a position and not to be on my team. Simple as that."
Daniel Ortiz "Is this rift beyond any repair at this current moment between you and your executive team?"
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "No. I would not say that. The 3 gentlemen are still members of the executive and I still have to work along with them. I am not a person who hold grudges and I have proven that before. There have been people who have spoken against me and I welcomed them back into the federation."
A big accusation against Vicente is that he has been using his influence as President to rig the District Elections so that he can become re-elected. The suggestion is that the District Committees are suppressing the information about the date of the elections, so that persons who want to offer themselves are unable to sign up. That then forces a situation where endorsements have to be taken, and the incumbents supposedly benefit from that since they are the ones who know when the elections are supposed to happen.
So, we asked the President why not publicize everything so that no one can accuse him directly. Here's how that conversation went:
Daniel Ortiz "Why is it not a decision taken to just publicize all the districts election so that there is no confusion and no one can accused the federation or its current chairman of trying to suppress information to slant it in their favor?"
Ruperto Vicente, President - FFB "This is where the electoral code is flaud. And we at executive have agreed that needs to be changed. And so the electoral committee have also cited that and they are going to be making recommendations for those things to be changed. It is not fair for anybody who wants to run for election to go to the incumbent to get those forms or the member of the association to go for those forms and give them to individual who wants to run. So the electoral committee has cited that and we are going to make recommendations. We are not going to end our job here after elections. We are going to continue working and change and ensure that the electoral code for the federation is one that lends transparency, one that lends fairness to everybody."
We still have a bit more from that interview with the president which we'll share with you tomorrow.
Belize's Vicente arrives in Zurich to vote but his exco claims he has been suspended
Football Federation of Belize President, Ruperto Vicente, voting in tomorrow's FIFA election in Zurich, has been suspended according to his Executive Committee, although he claims the suspension is not legal. FIFA and CONCACAF are yet to rule on the matter.
A dispute between Vicente, who was elected FFB President in March 2012, and members of his Executive Committee has blown up over recent days with Vicente accused of disallowing candidates not loyal to him in upcoming district elections scheduled for March 13 and overstepping his authority in the decisions he and his General-Secretary Michael Blease, have been making.
The dispute has gone legal with Vice President Sergio Chuc having called an executive committee meeting in order "to suspend (Vicente) as member and president of FFB." After some difficulties, the meeting was held with Vicente present and after a compromise could not be found the executive committee members claim Vicente was suspended due to his "ongoing documented history of engaging in and/or permitting improper activities in violation of FFB Statutes 2011," as well as the "improper manner in which District Association elections have been conducted in violation of numerous rules that govern the FFB and the FIFA Code of Ethics."
Vicente has refused to accept his suspension, and following the vote held an impromptu meeting of FFB Congress members where it was decided the suspension could be put on hold until a legal interpretation from FIFA and CONCACAF was forthcoming.
Both sides in the dispute have written to CONCACAF and FIFA, but 6 weeks before FFB elections are due, the matter remains unresolved. Whilst the executive committee members would like to see FIFA stepping in to set up a normalisation committee, Vicente, had already set off to cast his vote in the FIFA elections.
Reportedly asked whether he would be voting for (outgoing president) Sepp Blatter (really! - Ed) as he boarded the plane, Vicente replied:
"No. In Central America we vote as a block. We look at what is most important for Central America. And as well, since we will be having a meeting tomorrow, we will be looking at what is best for CONCACAF. But Central America block has decided on who we should be supporting, but that is going to be confirmed tomorrow."
Belize and the Central American regional grouping UNCAF have made a block public commitment to support Gianni Infantino.