KEIR RADNEDGE in MONACO: Jerome Champagne, the one declared candidate for the FIFA presidential election next year, has offered an olive branch to Europe in the wake of Michel Platini’s decision to stay above the fray.
Champagne, a fellow Frenchman, worked for 11 years as a senior aide president Sepp Blatter at the world federation before being ousted after an internal political wrangle in January 2010.
Early this year he announced his own intention to stand for the presidency and has since circulated a number of working papers to the world’s national associations outlining his vision for a ‘FIFA of the future.’
Champagne was not surprised to learn that UEFA president Platini had decided, as announced in Monaco today, not to be a candidate next year.
He said: “I have noted what Michel Platini had to say since I am a candidate myself and have already being setting out my own commitments to the improvement of football and its organisation and governance in all continents.”
Many European associations are suspicious of Champagne because of his many years working within FIFA and close to Blatter.
However he insisted that, were he to be elected, improving the fraught political relations between FIFA and the European confederation.
Champagne said: “My commitments include putting an end to the difficult relationship between the world governing body and UEFA because we all need to work hand in hand for the sake of the health of football.”
Leaders of the pack
FIFA, in all its 110 years, has had only eight presidents, seven of them European.
The first was Robert Guerin (France) followed by Daniel Woolfall (England), Jules Rimet (France), Rodolfe Seeldrayers (Belgium), Arthur Drewry then Sir Stanley Rous (both England). Brazilian Joao Havelange ousted Rous in 1974 and reigned for 24 years before retiring and being succeeded by Sepp Blatter in 1998.
Blatter was a marketing manager for Swiss timing firm Longines before being hand-picked for a FIFA development role by influential Adidas powerbroker Horst Dassler in 1975. He became FIFA development director before taking over as general secretary and then chief executive.
Attempts to oust sitting presidents in modern times have ended in dismal failure. Italian Antonio Matarrese was run out of sight by Havelange in 1994 and Cameroon’s Issa Hayatou was roundly defeated by Blatter in 2002. Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam ran against Blatter in 2011 but was barred from contesting the election after being suspended in a cash-for-votes scandal.
In Sao Paulo in June, on the eve of FIFA Congress, the corridors of UEFA power buzzed with the idea that another senior European figure should run against Blatter next year as a token of dissatisfaction. Holland’s Michael Van Praag and Germany’s Wolfgang Niersbach were names floated. Van Praag was non-commital while Niersbach vehemently denied wanting to be a pawn in a game of gesture politics.
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