PARIS, September 16-Long-time FIFA incumbent Sepp Blatter will have at least one rival for next year’s presidential election as former senior FIFA executive Jerome Champagne confirmed on Monday he would contest it.
The 56-year-old Frenchman, who worked closely with Blatter between 2002 and 2005 when he was deputy secretary-general, said on Twitter he had sent a letter to FIFA headquarters in Switzerland that he would be a candidate confirming his initial declaration in London back in January.
Champagne had said at the time of the original declaration that he did not think he could beat 77-year-old Blatter, who has been in charge since 1998, if he ran but he had a chance if UEFA chief Michel Platini was a candidate.
Since then, though, Blatter has declared himself as a candidate despite stating beforehand he would not stand again and Platini pulled back from the brink even though he declared in Brazil prior to the World Cup finals in June that he could no longer support Blatter.
Champagne, a former diplomat who worked on France’s successful bid for the right to host the 1998 World Cup before joining FIFA as an international advisor, said he was delighted that a debate had begun about the future of FIFA and football and thought more candidates would throw their hat into the ring.
“I have the honor of informing you that I have just written to the FIFA Ad-hoc Electoral Committee and its president, Mr. Domenico Scala, to confirm my intention to run for FIFA president,” said Champagne in a letter to football federations posted on his website.
“This confirmation has of course been made in accordance with the current FIFA regulations and in line with the announcement of my candidature of 20 January 2014 in London, in the same location where The Football Association was founded in 1863, the first of the 209 FIFA member associations.
“On a personal level, I am happy that the debate about the future of FIFA and football has finally begun with the prospect of various candidates.
“First and foremost, debating about issues is a normal process in an institution based on democratic principles.
“Then, this debate is particularly indispensable for football. We have to take clear and informed decisions on whether we want to continue with the current economic polarization, and the sporting imbalances it brings in its wake, or be willing to rebalance the game in our globalised twenty-first century.”
Champagne, who is funding his own campaign, 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.
The election itself takes place next May at the FIFA Congress.