Sepp Blatter will face at least one opponent next May when he runs for another term as FIFA President. His challenger Jerome Champagne is already executing a carefully constructed coup however.
To be honest, it really doesn’t take much to make yourself look good compared to Sepp Blater. He is one of the most universally hated men in the world. An impressive feat for a man who oversees what is just a sport. Blatter has held four consecutive terms as FIFA President. Blatter is truly horrible. The controversies continue to pile up for Sepp, now in his 16th year in charge. The last 2-3 years have been particularly controversial.
Blatter has mired FIFA in wide-ranging corruption claims due to the 2022 Qatar World Cup. he’s made sexist remarks about women’s football and even interrupted a minutes silence for Nelson Mandela a mere 10 seconds in. All this time, a figure has watched from the wings. His name is Jerome Champagne.
So who is Jerome Champagne? Well for those unfamiliar the Frenchman is an ex-diplomat, previous FIFA employee and a consultant to International Football Federations. A political career and association with FIFA, where he worked for eleven years are enough to set alarm bells ringing for most football fans. But the funny thing is Jerome Champagne could actually be the antithesis of Sepp Blatter.
Since announcing he would run against Blatter in May 2015, the Frenchman has begun a slow and deliberate PR campaign backed up by some worthy goals were he to be elected.
For a rough guide on how Champagne wants to run FIFA do the following: Think of a potential issue. Imagine what Sepp Blatter would do. Now imagine the opposite of that and you have Champagne in a nutshell.
Yes, that’s a very rudimentary and lazy description but there’s more than an ounce of truth in it. His manifesto is decidedly reformist. For a more concise take on things, Champagne has embraced social media to get his points across via Twitter.
Champagne on global inequality in football:
Yes European club football is the best in the world but where would it be without the players from other continents?
— Jérôme Champagne (@JChampagne2015) November 6, 2014
African clubs do not receive their fair share of the globalization of football and African football is exploited! — Jérôme Champagne (@JChampagne2015) November 6, 2014
On the use of Goal Line Technology:
It brought justice, avoided the protest, showed what human eyes could not see, did not kill the fluidity of the game nor the romanticism!
— Jérôme Champagne (@JChampagne2015) November 10, 2014
Racism and discrimination are abject and have no place in life and football!
— Jérôme Champagne (@JChampagne2015) November 19, 2014
As you can see, Jerome Champagne champions noble causes and is adept on social media or at the least has a good PR team. His manifesto seeks to put more power in the hands of FA’s as well as redistribute the balance of power in the FIFA Executive committee which is heavily focused on Europe.
Champagne, through his work as a consultant to both the Palestinian FA and the Football Federation of Kosovo has formed an image as a champion of the underdog.
He has been outspoken on the wealth inequality between Western European football nations and their counterparts in Eastern Europe and Africa. You would imagine this will woo a lot of under-represented smaller nations in FIFA. In fact, it is likely that his greatest opposition may come from Nations that are already vocally critical of Blatter. Champagne’s wishes to give more power to developing nations means less power for the more established ones.
Countries like Germany, Spain and England would surely see increased pressure from a Champagne-led FIFA on how they run their domestic leagues. Yet Germany and England have been vocal in their opposition to FIFA. Would they rather have their current power and keep Blatter or lose some of it in exchange for the reformist Champagne?
Jerome Champagne has been outspoken but has refused to comment on Blatter himself. Ever the politician he deflects Blatter specific questions. Champagne knows that if he keeps the debate on the wider issues he has the upper hand.
Should things descend into a street fight between the two, Champagne appears to hold the upper hand. He left in 2010, describing his departure vaguely as a “political fuse”. It led journalist Andrew Jennings to describe Jerome Champagne as Blatter’s last clean aide.
People hate Blatter, that fact can’t be denied. However those who oppose him have yet to place their trust in anyone else just yet. Champagne has a window of opportunity to win some powerful allies. It’s going to be an interesting six months indeed.
Sean Curtin, Pundit Arena.
Image by Play the game via flickr
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