Champagne to stand for FIFA post
4:00pm Monday 20th January 2014 in © Press Association 2014
The first candidate to announce he will stand for the FIFA presidency next year has admitted he would struggle to beat Sepp Blatter if he decides to seek a fifth term in office.
Jerome Champagne, a French ex-diplomat who is a former advisor of Blatter's, refused to say whether he would stand against his old boss and conceded he would probably lose if he did so.
Champagne's admission prompted speculation over the reasons for announcing his candidacy, but he insisted he is not a stalking horse to deter other potential opponents to 77-year-old Blatter, who has been FIFA president since 1998.
Asked if he could beat Blatter, Champagne replied: "No I don't think so, he's someone of relevance."
Champagne also insisted he was not standing as a decoy to put off other challengers and leave the field free for Blatter.
He added: "I don't know whether Mr Blatter will run or not. Of course as matter of politeness I informed him what I was planning to do.
"I don't know what he will do. Some people say I am manipulated by him but I tell you no - I stand because I believe in what I saying."
Champagne, however, said he believed he could beat Michel Platini, the UEFA president who is regarded as the most likely successor to Blatter.
Champagne's manifesto would be revolutionary on the field at least - he is standing on a platform of quotas to restrict the numbers of foreign players, bringing technology into the game for decisions such as offsides and penalties, as well as introducing the 10-yard rule to punish dissent and sin-bins.
His ideas for changes to FIFA's organisation would see much more power concentrated in the hands of the president, with the winning candidate able to appoint his own board of directors rather than answer to the executive committee.
Blatter said he will not decide whether to run for a fifth term until just before the FIFA Congress in June, but has insisted he "does not feel tired".
Champagne launched his campaign at London's Grand Connaught Rooms, the site where football's rules were first codified 150 years ago. He also showed a video message of support from Brazil's legendary former player Pele.
The Frenchman added: "We need a different FIFA, more democratic, more respected, which behaves better and which does more."
He said he backed those national associations such as the FA who feared that too many foreign players were affecting the fortunes of the national team, and would look to restrict those numbers.
He added: "The number of domestic players in the top league here is down to 32 per cent today and I totally support [FA chairman] Greg Dyke when he said 'I am not afraid of the word quota'."
In spelling out his concerns over the concentration of wealth among the top clubs, Champagne highlighted France where Paris St Germain and Monaco both have hugely-wealthy owners, and Spain where Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated their league due to being able to sell their own TV rights.
He praised the Premier League for remaining competitive due to the way it distributes its money to the 20 member clubs, saying: "The Premier League's distribution of money is essentially a communist system and we need to do that more."
He did question how much benefit there was for football in a small country such as Myanmar "spending 50million US dollars" on Premier League TV rights.
Champagne spent 11 years working for FIFA, including three as deputy secretary general, after being part of the organising committee for the 1998 World Cup in his native France.
He was at one time extremely close to Blatter and help run his campaign during the bitter 2002 election victory over African football leader Issa Hayatou.
After being overlooked for the position as secretary general he became director of international relations and left the governing body in 2010.