KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON: Jerome Champagne, first candidate to declare himself as a runner for the FIFA presidency, knows the world federation better than almost anyone.
Champagne spent 11 years with FIFA in various senior executive roles before being ousted on January 15, 2010. A formal statement suggested that they had parted best of friends. It thanked Champagne for:
“Projects he has overseen during this time, such as the FIFA Centennial, FIFA’s relations with governments and the European Union including the defence of the specificity of sport at the EU, the Win in Africa with Africa initiative, FIFA’s support for Palestinian football, the improvements in FIFA’s relationship with FIFPro for the good of the governance of world football, the development of CIES, and FIFA’s relations with the IOC and other international federations.”
But, like high-flying predecessors including Keith Cooper, Markus Siegler, Urs Linsi and Guido Tognoni, Champagne did not walk, he was pushed.
Oddly, the timing turned out to be fortuitous. Over the next year Champagne was a mere spectator on the touchline as FIFA was swamped by two votes-for-cash scandals (World Cup awards and presidential election) topped off by eventual revelation of the tip of the dirty ISL iceberg.
In the meantime the Saint-Etienne fan picked up a consultancy to the Palestinian federation and was thus free, at the start of 2012, to launch his own alternative reform proposals,
His motivation was not the destruction of FIFA but its resurrection.
The multi-lingual 55-year-old has visited more than 140 countries in his roles as diplomat, then journalist then FIFA official. He saw enough to be convinced of the value of FIFA.
But not FIFA as it is.
As he said: “I think that the FIFA I served loyally during 11 years, has a fundamental role to play for the governance of football [and] because I am convinced that our world needs the universality of football and its transformative power to become fairer, more solid and more united around common global goals.”
Blatter would say that some of Champagne’s proposals for improved governance and tighter financial controls have been achieved.
But the ‘official’ reform work undertaken under the aegis of Basel professor Mark Pieth has not addressed Champagne’s wish for a rebalancing of power between the president, the exco, the confederations and the 209 individual football associations.
This, according to Champagne, is the only way FIFA can bring effective power to bear in the battle against the evils of matchfixing, corruption, doping, loss of credibility, racism, violence discrimination and all the usual “plagues of our societies.”
He also has views on more detailed issues within the game and is an advocate for wider use of video technology beyond ‘mere’ goal-line decisions.
He once said: “There is a need for new impetus, fresh air, new vision and some momentum. But at the same time we need to keep what has been done correctly for 40 years – the universalisation of the game, the development programme. We need FIFA but a stronger FIFA.”
That cannot come soon enough.
As Champagne is also on record as saying: “The 2015 election will be a very, very, very important moment because that election will determine football until 2025 or 2030.”