EXCLUSIVE: The Clock is Ticking for Champagne to Remain in FIFA Presidential Race
By iSportconnect | January 23, 2015
A week is a long time in politics – and FIFA presidential hopeful Jerome Champagne (pictured) will be using every minute of the next seven days to try and ensure he remains part of the battle for top job.
A year has passed now since Champagne, ailment a former official in world football’s governing body, generic pills was the first person to announce his intention to challenge his former boss Sepp Blatter and stand for the role of president.
But to be eligible for the election on May 29 in Zurich, ailment candidates must have five formal nominations from national associations by next week’s deadline on January 29.
Champagne this week sent an open letter to federations and their officials in an attempt to secure the support he needs.
In an exclusive interview with iSportconnect, the French former diplomat admitted that there was a “climate of fear” in world football at this time.
“We are one week before the deadline, I have said in these letters to all the federations it would be easier for me to get some votes in a secret ballot than having the letters which could be made public because there is a climate of fear and because some confederations already issued recommendations” he said.
“And of course I have to recognise the fact that president Blatter remains popular and people think he should be re-elected.
“Having said that, one week is ahead of me and I’m explaining the situation in these letters that they are not commitments of voting. It is just to enable a candidate to continue in the debate.
“Because what is clear is we need ideas and platforms, we need programmes and I am the only one.”
Champagne was in Brussels this week taking part in a debate organised by the group New FIFA Now, set up by a number of British and European politicians.
Rather than call for wholesale change Champagne was advocating – as he has done throughout his campaign – a more progressive approach to reform in FIFA, and in particular redressing the imbalance in the global game.
He said: “I disagree on the fact that we need to scrap FIFA, that everything that was made was wrong. I think that was the wrong starting point.
“I said there that the responsibility of the problems in football are not because of one person, it’s because of a collective responsibility that is shared by the exco.”
Champagne went on to explain what he thought was the most pressing issue FIFA should deal with.
“This week we’ve seen the statistic that the wealthiest 1% of the planet control nearly 50% of the world’s wealth – and it in football it is exactly the same situation” he said. “This is the real issue FIFA should deal with.
“Of course we need to improve transparency, of course that is absolutely clear. We need to know about the report of Mr Garcia, we need to find a solution for the situation of the Nepalese workers in Qatar but the problem we face today is this growing inequalities…
“That’s why we need a strong FIFA to regulate the game and also to spread the wealth. I will continue supporting this vision; that is clear.”
His views on progressive reform are shared by many, including fellow candidate and FIFA vice-president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein (pictured left) who stands a more likely chance of unseating Blatter.
There is another challenger who recently threw his hat into the ring, to the surprise of almost the entire sporting world.
Former footballer David Ginola announced his intention to be a candidate, backed by a British bookmaker.
Critics have suggested it is a publicity stunt due to the majority of the bid funds having to crowdfunded and Ginola himself being paid a substantial wage.
Champagne had little time for Ginola’s campaign.
“I have seen someone reading a text off a prompter,” he said. “I’ve seen someone unable to mention one name of the FIFA exco, I’ve seen someone unable to express what he knows about IFAB – come on. If you want to run for the FIFA office it is a serious thing.
“First you don’t launch yourself supported by a bookmaking company. You don’t launch yourself with a guarantee of a quarter million British pounds as a salary. You don’t launch yourself with the guarantee of making 90% [of bid fund] through crowdfunding.
“I think it sends the wrong signal. The presidency of FIFA is a serious office. Football and FIFA needs as I said continuity and evolution, and that is really giving a bad image.
“But listen I think this launch has been largely criticised and I don’t think it is best we talk a lot about it.”
Back to his own bid, Champagne was remaining optimistic and without being too specific, confirmed that the number of nominations he has so far received is “more than one, and less than five”.
He admitted that the rest of his week will be taken up with “calling, phoning, trying to convince people” as he looks to push for his vision of a reformed FIFA.
Should he not acquire the support needed, he maintains he will still push for change as an outsider and contribute to the ongoing debate.
In the likely event that Blatter (pictured right) is re-elected to serve a fifth term in office, Champagne believed that serious reform could still take place – possibly even more so than before.
He said: “If he [Blatter] is re-elected, he won’t have any more elections to lose and to some extent he will probably be freer to implement the necessary changes that FIFA needs and football needs which were not implementable because of the political context of the FIFA executive committee.
“So I place hope in the fact that if it will be his last mandate, that reforms will be done.”
“A week is a long time in politics” is attributed to former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who also said “he who rejects change is the architect of decay”.
Whether Champagne is a candidate or not for the FIFA presidential election, hope prevails for an acceptance of change in Zurich.