New CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani aims to spearhead reform process

Victor Montagliani - CONCACAF - CSA

For the first time in a long time, Canada is on top in CONCACAF, as Victor Montagliani was elected president of the regional governing body on Thursday.

Montagliani, re-elected for a second term as president of the Canadian Soccer Association earlier this month, defeated Bermuda Football Association president Larry Mussenden for the CONCACAF presidency.

The position – indeed, the entire confederation – has been wracked by turmoil and controversy since the resignation of long-time president Jack Warner in 2011. Warner was subsequently indicted, as were Alfredo Hawit and Jeffrey Webb, who followed him as CONCACAF president.

Montagliani, who rose to the presidency of the CSA with promises of governance reform (which largely came to fruition during his first term), has similarly promised accountability and transparency within the regional confederation. He said he understands the importance of restoring CONCACAF’s reputation amid the recent scandals.

“There’s a long road ahead, let’s not fool ourselves, to change the brand and change the image,” he told Canadian media on a conference call Thursday.

“It’s very difficult to regain credibility overnight. It’s a day-by-day process. It started with our reforms back in February [and] today is a big step as well.”

The 50-year-old will have a busy year ahead, as he juggles duties at the helm of both the CSA and CONCACAF. But he noted on Thursday that—as per CONCACAF statutes—he now has one year to step down as president of the CSA, meaning that the Canadian federation will have a new president in 2017, if not sooner.

The new CONCACAF leader insists, though, that he’s ready to take on the challenges of the coming months as he transitions into his new role.

“I know it’ll be a heavy workload but nothing that I haven’t taken as a challenge before,” he said. “I’ll be ready for it.”

Strong leadership was one of four key planks of Montagliani’s “One CONCACAF” platform, alongside governance reform, strategic planning and football-first investment. During a press conference earlier on Thursday, he gave a sampling of what that will entail.

“From an integrity standpoint the tone starts at the top, and that’s what I hope to bring to CONCACAF,” he said.

He also said that he doesn’t expect the recent hits to CONCACAF’s reputation will prevent the confederation from reaching its goal of having the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosted in this part of the world.

“I think it’s very realistic,” Montagliani said. “You have to look at the three countries that have put up their hand [Canada, the US and Mexico].

“Canada put on the greatest Women’s World Cup in history [in 2015], and we did that right in the middle of the scandal, or whatever you want to define it as. The show must go on, as it relates to World Cups, because the fans deserve that.”

Despite the serious challenges he faces in the years ahead, Montagliani did take a moment on Thursday to reflect on the historic significance of a Canadian ascending to a position of such power in world sport.

“It was a very emotional moment and still is,” he told his country’s reporters. “Nothing makes me prouder than being a Canadian.”