Soccer Administrator Dempsey Dies

June 25, 2008 7:25:36 AM PDT
Veteran soccer administrator Charles Dempsey, whose abstention from the vote cost South Africa hosting rights for the 2006 World Cup, died Wednesday after a short illness at the age of 86, the Oceania Football Confederation said. The Scottish-born Dempsey was the chairman of Soccer New Zealand when the team reached the World Cup finals for the only time at Spain in 1982. He was also the patriarch of Oceania soccer, serving as the confederation's president for 36 years before being appointed to world governing body FIFA.

Dempsey will be most remembered for not casting a vote at a 2000 FIFA meeting to decide which country hosted the 2006 World Cup.

Although Oceania had indicated support for South Africa to host the tournament, Dempsey's decision not to vote resulted in Germany winning the rights.

His inaction on the vote earned the ire of sections of the world soccer community, particularly South Africa, and he never disclosed his reasons.

Oceania Football Confederation general secretary Tai Nicholas said Dempsey's contribution had been enormous.

"Not only in New Zealand and the Oceania region but around the world. We consider him the father of Oceania and he's well respected at FIFA," said Nicholas, who worked with Dempsey for 12 years. "He leaves a great legacy."

Former New Zealand player Brian Turner said his teammates from the 1982 era all held Dempsey in the highest regard.

"I honestly think that if Charlie wasn't around, we wouldn't have gone to the World Cup," Turner told New Zealand's Radio Sport. "Charlie was the man at the forefront of all the fundraising and was the figurehead of the whole '82 campaign."

Dempsey was born in Maryhill, Scotland, in 1922 and migrated to New Zealand in 1952.

During his years with Oceania, Dempsey oversaw the body's rise to full confederation status and was responsible for raising national association membership from four to 11.

Dempsey is survived by his wife, Anne, and daughters Josephine and Alice. His funeral was scheduled to be held early next week.