Football Football

Champagne bids for FIFA presidency


JEROME-CHAMPAGNELONDON, January 20- Former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne on Monday launched his bid to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of the organisation that runs the global game.

The 55-year-old Frenchman, who worked closely with Blatter between 2002 and 2005, announced his campaign to become football’s most powerful man at a press conference in central London.

Champagne said he was eager to restore FIFA’s reputation after accusations of corruption in recent years, acknowledging that the organisation had “an image deficit problem”.

Addressing reporters in front of the slogan ‘Hope for football,’ he said: “We need a different FIFA: more democratic, more respected, which behaves better and which does more.”

Blatter, 77, is approaching the end of his fourth term in office and is yet to announce whether or not he will stand again in next year’s election in Zurich.

Current UEFA president Michel Platini said late last year that he will announce whether or not he will stand for the post either during or after the World Cup in Brazil, which starts on June 12.

In a video message, Brazil legend Pele announced his support for Champagne’s candidacy.

“I know his vision of football and the future of the game and for this reason, I trust him,” said the three-time World Cup-winner.

Champagne, however, would not confirm whether or not he will stand against Blatter if the Swiss decides to seek a fifth term.

“I cannot answer a hypothetical question, but I’m here because I believe in what I’m saying and I plan to do what I’m saying,” he said.

He identified “three major challenges” facing football in the 21st century: the “increasing imbalance” between continents and countries and within leagues; the growing influence of private interests; and a “loss of prestige” in the wake of recent controversies.

He said that he intended to “strengthen the democratisation of FIFA” by reinforcing the role of national associations within the organisation’s executive committee and working more closely with leagues and clubs.

He gave his support for an ongoing investigation into the process that saw the right to host the 2022 World Cup awarded to Qatar, amid ongoing uncertainty regarding when during the year the tournament will take place.

“The World Cup is the largest, most followed sport event in the world. We need to go to a World Cup with total tranquility and serenity,” he said.

“If something (improper) has happened, we need to know and if nothing has happened, we need to know as well.”

Champagne, who revealed that he is funding his campaign himself, also called for more technological assistance to be made available to match officials.

A former diplomat, Champagne worked on France’s successful bid for the right to host the 1998 World Cup before joining FIFA as an international advisor.

He helped to organise Blatter’s victorious election campaign in 2002 and later worked as FIFA’s director of international relations before leaving the organisation in 2010.

He has since worked as an independent football consultant, helping Kosovo to gain recognition from FIFA and working on a potential rapprochement between Israel and Palestine.