Former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne officially announced his candidacy for the presidency of the world’s soccer governing body on Monday. Champagne told reporters,
We need a different FIFA, more democratic, more respected, which behaves better and which does more.
Current FIFA president Sepp Blatter has held the position since taking over for his predecessor Joao Havelange in 1998, and has been re-elected three times in 2002, 2007, and 2011 but has yet to announce any plans to run again when his term expires in 2015. It is no secret that Blatter and FIFA have come under fire in recent years for increased corruption within the organization and for unpopular decision-making amongst fans and industry professionals alike.
Champagne, 55, started making a name for himself in the soccer industry while serving in Los Angeles as the Deputy Consul General, according to Reuters. Leading up to the 1998 French World Cup he met with some of the leaders of the Organizing Committee for the 1998 World Cup in France, including Michel Platini, whom he would later work under as a diplomatic advisor and Chief of Protocol for the Committee beginning in 1997.
It was Blatter himself that brought Champagne to FIFA as an international advisor, and thus was the start of his 11-year career with the organization. He is most well-known for being Blatter’s right hand and for being involved in projects and initiatives such as building better relationships with the European Union, International Olympic Committee, and FIFpro along with other organizations, according to Reuters.
Although Champagne announced his candidacy for world soccer’s most powerful post, according to an article from The Telegraph, when he was asked whether or not he believed he could defeat Blatter should the incumbent decide to stand for another election in 2015 he replied,
No, I don’t think. He’s someone of relevance.
After that statement, many were left wondering why a man with a background in politics would bother with the trouble of running a campaign for a position which he does not think he would win if contested. His seemingly lacking confidence was somewhat restored when he was asked whether or not he thought he would be able to secure the minimum five formal endorsements from national associations. He replied,
I do believe that I will have the five votes but a lot of things can happen. I’m not living in a world of Mary Poppins.
Champagne’s political background and former experience with FIFA could serve well for his cause, as would big name endorsements, like perhaps Pele. In a video shown at the press conference in London where Champagne announced his candidacy, Pele said,
I cannot stay away from a debate which is so important for the future of football and thus, I support Jerome Champagne and his vision.
FIFA must continue doing what has been done well in the past, taking its competitions and the World Cup to all countries and also continue its development programs, but has to adapt itself to the 21st century and to the world of today.
Champagne published a paper last year outlining his ‘vision’ for FIFA and for the sport – a vision he has made the core of his campaign. In the document he talks about changes he sees as necessary for FIFA to make including the use of technology for offside and penalty kick decisions, and making the salaries of top FIFA officials public among other administrative and ‘field of play’ tweaks.
Fellow Frenchman Michel Platini has often been talked about as the favorite to take the presidency from Blatter should the 77-year old resign, however, Platini it is believed will not reveal his intentions regarding the position until after the World Cup. In fact, there are some theories that Blatter and Platini have a pact with one another to not announce their plans, or lack thereof, for the FIFA presidency until after Brazil 2014 has concluded.
What role Champagne might play as the underdog third wheel remains to be seen, and frankly it is a little early to speculate. His policies however, require little speculation, and some could be interesting changes, to say the least, in the way the modern game is both played and governed.