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Jerome Champagne enters FIFA presidential election contest

By AP - Oct 24,2015 - Last updated at Oct 24,2015

GENEVA — The newest contender in FIFA’s presidential election race is also the most likely to defend the work of Sepp Blatter.

Jerome Champagne, a French former diplomat, served Blatter for 11 years before being forced out of FIFA in 2010 in a power struggle that pitted the now-suspended president against rivals including Michel Platini.

Five years on, the onetime FIFA international relations director is a contender to lead the embattled governing body out of a corruption crisis and chaos partly provoked by those same leadership tensions.

“I sent my application letter and eight nomination letters to FIFA on Monday night,” Champagne told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of launching his bid for football’s top job on Friday.

“It’s an exciting mission,” said France’s deputy consul general in Los Angeles from 1991-95. “It’s a unique opportunity to restore FIFA and to continue what has been done correctly in 111 years.”

Champagne announced his bid after sending a 7-page manifesto to FIFA’s 209 member federations.

The detailed document includes plans to modernise how the embattled governing body is run, fight inequality — including cuts to European places at FIFA and the 2026 World Cup — and to trial the use of video review to help referees.

Champagne campaigned for the previous election, won in May by his former boss and ally Blatter, but did not get the required backing of five members to be a candidate.

He now joins Platini, HRH Prince Ali and David Nakhid, a former Trinidad and Tobago player, in meeting Monday’s deadline to apply for the February 26 emergency election. More contenders are set to stand.

Platini is suspended by the FIFA ethics committee and unlikely to be accepted as a candidate. The UEFA president is appealing against his ban for taking a $2 million salary payment nine years after he worked as Blatter’s personal adviser.

Blatter, who is also suspended for paying Platini from FIFA funds in 2011, called the election amid a deepening crisis in June. He announced his planned exit just four days after winning re-election despite FIFA then being subject to American and Swiss criminal investigations of bribery and suspected money-laundering.

Champagne was not linked to personal corruption during and since his FIFA stint, and gets a second election chance because of the scandals.

“If I met Mr Blatter in the street I will say hello. I’m not ashamed of that,” said Champagne.

Indeed, the 57-year-old sees his experience as a FIFA insider working with members worldwide as a vote-winner.

“They want someone who knows how FIFA functions — for the good and for the bad,” Champagne said,

Champagne chimed with current ideas to reform FIFA by suggesting a 12-year limit on all elected positions, quotas to ensure women are represented on all football bodies worldwide and “open and competitive” bidding for all commercial contracts.

Development in poorer football nations is another priority and he has long argued against Europe’s concentration of wealth and players from across the world.

He set a target of building 400 artificial turf pitches worldwide within four years, partly funded by spending less of FIFA’s $1 billion-plus annual revenue on running costs.

 

Up to 10 new FIFA member nations could be accepted, from Caribbean and Pacific islands and Kosovo, where Champagne has advised football officials since leaving FIFA.

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