Jerome Champagne, first candidate to register formally his bid for the FIFA presidency, is ready to go head-to-head with any rivals in a television or internet-streamed debate.
The issues in elections for the head of the world football federation have never previously been set out before the watching football family but the prospect might prove irresistible for incumbent Sepp Blatter who is expected to confirm his own candidacy at the end of next week.
Only last week Prince Ali of Jordan, Asia’s FIFA vice-president, called for the presidential election next year to be all about issues and not personalities. Champagne confirmed to this writer last night that he was ready for a public face-to-face debate.
Though the Frenchman would be a rank outsider against Blatter, who will tell the FIFA executive committee that he wants to stand next year for a fifth term in office, at least he has the courage of his convictions.
The former FIFA official’s stance contrasts starkly with senior UEFA figures – including president Michel Platini – who have proved happy to attack Blatter while retreating from the prospect of standing against him.
Champagne, who launched his presidential bid in London last January, ‘came out’ by announcing to all the world’s 209 football federations: “I have the honour of informing you that I have just written to the FIFA ad hoc electoral committee and its president, Mr Domenico Scala, to confirm my intention to run for FIFA president.”
He went on characterise a debate as being “indispensible” for football and “essential” for FIFA which needed to be:
1, more inclusive for its protagonists, players, clubs and leagues;
2, more proactive about correcting divisive inequalities;
3, more modern in its methods, including refereeing on the pitch and its approach to governance; and
4, more in touch with the fans so that everyone, regardless of their age or origin, feels part of the football pyramid.
Champagne is in favour of publication of the remuneration packages of the president and senior officials, a step deemed necessary by reform adviser Mark Pieth to help demonstrate that FIFA really had turned the corner on transparency.
Publication of pay packages of Blatter, secretary-general Jerome Valcke and other senior FIFA figures has also been recommended by Scala, who chairs the audit and compliance committee.
Swiss businessman Scala is fast gaining strength within FIFA after his role in combining with ethics investigator Michael Garcia to draw up a package of election regulations and then his role in barring exco members from accepting gifts of valuable watches from the Brazilian football confederation at the World Cup.
While Champagne knows he has many modernisers on his side, they are comparatively few and far between among the conservative old guard within world federation who saw off, at FIFA Congress in June, proposals for age and term limits.
Hence the value for him of taking his manifesto out to the world football family through broadcast debate.
He said: “When the slate of candidates is finalized [next January], I also propose that public debates be held between all candidates in the presence of the heads of national associations during the conti- nental congresses to be held through May 2015.
“These debates should be televised on a global and/or continental scale, as is the case for all the democratic elections around the world.
“It is my belief that these debates are essential for everyone in the hierarchy of our sport. It will allow each one to become fully aware of the available options, and enable clear and informed choices for the future.
“The 2015 election must not be determined on the basis of individual appeal but on vision and agenda, to which we must commit for the next decade.”