Former senior FIFA exec Jérôme Champagne said that he will make "tackling the 'inequalities' in world football the central debate" of his bid for the FIFA presidency, according to James Gheerbrant of the LONDON TIMES. Champagne, who on Monday announced his "campaign to succeed Sepp Blatter at the head of football's global governing body, believes he is the man to solve the 'severe crisis' facing football and take the lead in fighting the 'dangerous elitism' which threatens the global game." Champagne: "The most pressing challenge is to tackle the imbalances in the game. Everywhere you turn you come across inequalities. In France, my country, 18 clubs compete for third place. European football has become very hegemonic. We have lost part of what makes football special" (LONDON TIMES, 1/20). Also in London, Oliver Kay reported Champagne presented himself "as the man who would clean up" and transform FIFA -- only to admit that his "campaign for the presidency is doomed if Sepp Blatter stands for re-election." Launching his bid in London "under slogans such as 'Hope for football: rebalance the game in a globalised 21st century,' Champagne initially sounded like a committed reformist," but he faced questions about the "credibility of his campaign after suggesting that he might not even challenge Blatter if the longstanding president stands for a fifth campaign." When asked whether he felt that he could "beat Blatter in an election," Champagne said, "No. He is a person of relevance" (LONDON TIMES, 1/20).
BLATTER UNDECIDED: SKY SPORTS reported Blatter is yet to decide "whether he will bid for a fifth term and will not announce his intentions until just before the FIFA congress in June." All the indications, however, are that Blatter "will run, and that means he will be up against his former right-hand man Champagne." Champagne ran Blatter's successful election campaign in '02. Frenchman Champagne, 55, a former diplomat, worked at FIFA for 11 years between '99 and '10 and is "a former deputy Secretary General" of FIFA. Champagne "would become the first French president of FIFA since the legendary Jules Rimet" (SKY SPORTS, 1/20).
BID TO CHALLENGE EUROPE: In N.Y., James Montague wrote Champagne is proposing an agenda that, he said, would "democratize FIFA and redistribute some of the huge sums of money being made in the European leagues and competitions to the world’s poorer federations." Champagne's proposals include a "tax on the wealthiest leagues" to set up a fund to help football development around the world. Champagne: "The role of FIFA in the economy of football is a mix of Robin Hood and the sheriff of Nottingham. When a competition becomes very successful internationally, it takes a lot of money away from the local leagues" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/19). REUTERS' Mike Collett reported Champagne "also sees that FIFA is the only viable body that can right the wrongs, but that it needs to be stronger and more transparent." Champagne: "I am not saying I have all the answers, but I do think we need to have a very deep look at where we are heading. I may be a traditionalist but I also believe in adapting. We need a modern FIFA for the modern world" (REUTERS, 1/20).
PELE RAISES GLASS: REUTERS' Mike Collett reported in a separate piece Pele has endorsed Champagne's bid, saying that he "supported the 55-year-old Frenchman's vision for the future" of FIFA. The Brazilian, "widely regarded as the world's greatest-ever player," gave his backing in a videotaped message "shown when Champagne launched his bid at a news conference in London." Pele: "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" (REUTERS, 1/20).
ORANGE CARDS?: The BBC reported Champagne has "suggested introducing orange cards as a disciplinary measure, which would see players sin-binned." Champagne also "wants football to consider using more technology to help referees make key decisions as well as punishing teams when players question officials" (BBC, 1/20).