Jerome Champagne speaks during a news conference in a hotel in Central London, Britain, yesterday. Champagne, a former right-hand man to current FIFA President Joseph Blatter, announced in London his intention to run for the presidency at the ruling football body in 2015.
LONDON: Sepp Blatter’s former right-hand man Jerome Champagne officially launched his bid to stand for the FIFA presidency yesterday, firing the first shot in a potential 15-month battle for control of the world’s richest and most influential sport.
Frenchman Champagne, 55, a former diplomat, worked at FIFA for 11 years between 1999 and 2010 and is a former deputy Secretary General of world soccer’s governing body.
The presidential elections will take place in June 2015 with Blatter expected to stand for a fifth term and facing a possible challenge from UEFA president Michel Platini for the role second only to the presidency of the International Olympic Committee in global sporting importance.
Champagne, speaking at the London site where the English FA, the world’s oldest, was founded in 1863, ended months of speculation by declaring his bid on a platform of reform based on his far-reaching 20,000-word document “What FIFA for the 21st century ?” published in 2012.
He said his election slogans: “Hope for Football, Hope for All” and “Re-Balance the Game in a Globalised 21st Century” emphasise his message of curbing the polarisation of the game into pockets of elite clubs in Europe’s richest leagues.
In an interview, Champagne said he was advocating four major changes to modernise the organisation: “It needs to be more transparent and more in tune with the modern world.
“We need to redress the imbalances in the world game, we need to make FIFA’s executive committee more democratic and transparent, we need to introduce technology to assist the referee and his assistants and we need to better handle the globalisation of the sport.
“At the very least I want to open up the debate so these issues are examined properly,” he added.
Since leaving FIFA in 2010 after being forced out by political infighting, that for once, he was powerless to stop, Champagne has been working as an international soccer consultant in troubled regions such as Kosovo, Palestine and Israel and Cyprus.
Although he is outside FIFA he says he is eligible to stand for the presidency as he has the backing of at least five FAs and has been active in the game for at least two of the last five years. REUTERS