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Champagne’s vision for a fairer future

Jérôme Champagne has vowed to rid Fifa of its rotten core and restore its credibility should he succeed Sepp Blatter as president of the scandal-plagued organisation.

Champagne, a former Fifa assistant general secretary, is among five presidential candidates and hopes his clean-up campaign will appeal to the 209 member states who cast their votes at the election on February 26.

Having worked inside Fifa's corridors of power for 11 years, Champagne has a detailed understanding on how it functions — the good and the bad — with his measures outlining a more modern approach to football and governance issues.

His “Hope for All” agenda is aimed at fighting the “growing inequalities” within the game, particularly the concentration of European wealth, as well as being sympathetic to the unique needs of the smaller, poorer nations.

The former French diplomat also feels he has unfinished business after being forced out of Fifa during a power struggle in 2010 between Blatter, his former boss, and rivals, including Michel Platini.

Blatter and Platini, the Uefa president, were suspended on Monday for eight years from all football-related activities after an ethics investigation found both guilty of breaches surrounding a $2 million payment made to Platini in 2011.

Champagne was not linked to any personal corruption during and since his time at Fifa. He credits his jettisoning, a chastening experience, for helping him grow into a viable leader of football's world governing body.

“I was pushed out of Fifa in January 2010 by a coalition of people such as Mohammed bin Hammam, Platini and Jérôme Valcke,” said Champagne, who presented his election platform to the Bermuda Football Association via a conference call this month.

“All of those people who connived to push me out have all been suspended.

“The French media wrote at the time that these guys ganged up against me to eliminate a potential opponent for the succession of Blatter.

“However, I'm not motivated by revenge or bitterness. This experience was very important for me in terms of future leadership. I know exactly what should be kept and exactly what needs to be reformed.”

Champagne campaigned for the previous election, won in May by Blatter, but did not receive the required support of five members to be a candidate.

However, the 57-year-old was afforded a second chance to run for president because of the scandals that have plunged Fifa into turmoil.

Seven Fifa officials were arrested at a Zurich hotel at the end of May, while Swiss prosecutors are also investigating Fifa's management as well as the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

Champagne admits it has been an “annus horribilis” for Fifa but believes the besieged organisation must seize the opportunity to clean up and start a fresh.

“It's been a very tough year for Fifa, a very sad year, but it's been necessary,” he said. “We have to make the best out of this difficult situation.

“In the globalised world of today's football we need a government, if not the game will be ‘stolen' by people whose motivation is purely political or business orientated, or even worse, criminal.”

Despite the allegations against Blatter, Champagne remains loyal to his old master who he believes has been unfairly blamed for the sorry state of Fifa.

“I think it's overly simplistic to blame only one person for the problems [of Fifa],” Champagne said.

“It's what I call a form of ‘Blatter bashing'. It has to be a collective responsibility by the members of the executive committee.

“The past is the past, but the past should motivate the reforms. I'm very motivated to enforce those reforms and change Fifa's style and make it more accessible and transparent.”

Development in poorer football nations, such as those in the Caribbean, is another priority for Champagne, who wants to build more than 400 artificial turf pitches worldwide within four years.

He also plans to double the funding received by the Caribbean football associations to help improve their domestic leagues, as well as cover transportation costs of playing overseas matches.

“Football associations covering islands or territories face a very serious problem and that's transportation costs,” said Champagne, who visited Bermuda in 2007.

“A local government on a small island cannot help a lot, the local industry barely exists while tourism industry is turned outwards.

“That's why I've designed a specific programme in my platform for the island/archipelagos football associations in the Caribbean, Oceania, Africa and Asia to help their inter-island and external transportation.

“I believe we need to double the financial assistance programme from $250,000 to $500,000 a year to help and facilitate growth. That doesn't mean there will be less control. We need to make sure every public dollar belonging to Fifa reaches its objective.”

Champagne joins Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, of Jordan, a former Fifa vice-president, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, of Bahrain, the president of the Asian Football Confederation, Switzerland's Gianni Infantino, the Uefa general secretary, and Tokyo Sexwale, a South African politician and businessman as the hopefuls to succeed Blatter.

Offering hope: Champagne sees a future where football's scandal-ridden governing body is far more transparent than it is today

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Published December 23, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 22, 2015 at 8:47 pm)

Champagne’s vision for a fairer future

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