CONCACAF ends partnership with Traffic Sports USA over fraud charge

NEW YORK -- In the latest fallout from the U.S. federal investigation into soccer corruption, the sport's governing body for North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) ended its corporate partnership agency relationship with Traffic Sports USA, two months after the company pleaded guilty to a fraud charge.

The announcement was made before Tuesday night's start of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the region's biennial championship for national teams.

CONCACAF said in a statement the decision was mutual and "will have no effect on CONCACAF's ability to fulfill its existing obligations to sponsors or to stage future tournaments."

The Gold Cup is being broadcast in the U.S. by Fox.

The governing body, whose past two presidents and general secretaries were implicated in the corruption probe, said it will service existing sponsorships through its in-house sales and marketing staff and team.

A three-man special committee is evaluating the process for selecting future partners and vendors: U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati, Mexican Football Federation President Justino Compean and Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani.

Traffic Sports USA pleaded guilty on May 14 to wire fraud conspiracy. Jose Hawilla, owner and founder of the Brazilian company Traffic Group, pleaded guilty last December to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice and the U.S. government said he agreed to forfeit more than $151 million.

Traffic Sports USA President Aaron Davidson, who also chaired the board of the second-tier North American Soccer League, was among 14 soccer and marketing executives indicted in May on racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud charges.

Former CONCACAF President Jack Warner also was indicted along with his successor, Jeffrey Webb, who was then provisionally fired. Warner is in Trinidad and has voted to fight extradition to the U.S. Webb is in a Swiss jail while authorities in that country process the American extradition request.

Chuck Blazer, CONCACAF's general secretary from 1990-2011, cooperated with the federal investigation and pleaded guilty in November 2013 to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, income tax evasion and failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts.

Enrique Sanz, a Traffic Sports USA vice president, was hired as CONCACAF's general secretary in July 2012, just after Webb became president. An unidentified co-conspirator listed in the indictment fits the description of Sanz's work history. After the indictments were unsealed, he was banned provisionally by CONCACAF and FIFA, soccer's world governing body.

Sanz had headed Traffic's CONCACAF region since 2005. Two months later, CONCACAF agreed to a two-year contract with Traffic Sports and World Sport Group for international broadcast rights for the 2013 Gold Cup, the 2012-13 and 2013-14 Champions Leagues and that November it announced a deal with Traffic for commercial partnership rights for those tournaments.

In April 2014, CONCACAF announced a deal with Traffic for four Gold Cups through 2021, seven Champions Leagues through 2020-21, designating the company as its "official corporate partnership agency."

Traffic also was among the companies that owned a new entity that controlled rights for the planned Copa America Centenario in the United States next year.