By Keir Radnedge
FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne wants to see tighter regulation of the transfer system within a programme of change to bring the professional game closer to the heart of the world federation.
The 55-year-old Frenchman launched his campaign in London in January, some 16 months ahead of the next election from which incumbent Sepp Blatter is odds-on favourite to be elected for a fifth four-year term.
Champagne knows the workings of both FIFA and international football intimately after having worked for 11 years in senior positions within FIFA before losing one political battle too many in January 2010.
In the first of a drip-drip series of proposals circulated among leaders of all FIFA’s 209 national associations he has argued for:
1, the creation of a specific professional football division within FIFA;
2, representation of leagues, clubs and players on the governing executive committee;
3, setting-up of a ‘football chamber’ within the Court of Arbitration for Sport;
4, a limit on the numbers of transfers and loans in the midseason window; and
5, outlawing of third party ownership of players.
Champagne has long believed that football’s health and future is threatened by an increasing financial imbalance not only between the six regional confederations but within them and by the increasing power of the club game at the expense of national team football.
This has particular relevance for the world federation whose budget is almost entirely dependent on revenues generated by the World Cup through television rights deals and sponsorship.
Hence Champagne has proposed “a Professional Football Division within FIFA to become the fourth ‘field’ division alongside member associations, competitions and development.”
It should also encourage the efforts of players’ union FIFPro to create local unions in developing football nations because the “voice of all clubs, whichever their continent, has to be heard.”
This step would demand, inevitably, the inclusion of all three sectors in the FIFA executive committee.
On transfers, Champagne wants a “world collective bargaining agreement” to tighten up regulatory control, stricter control of the multi-ownership of clubs, and a speeding up of the appeals system “with the objective to establish a true ‘football chamber’ within CAS.”
The supreme court of world sport, created by the International Olympic Committee, has long opposed the concept of a division for a specific sport. However it has becme clear that CAS cannot work quickly enough to accommodate fast-changing events within football.
Clubs and managers may have mixed feelings about Champagne’s suggestion of a limit on the number of mid-season transfers but a majority opinion will favour his instinct to limit the number of loans.
His proposal to declare third-party ownership illegal, once and for all, will be opposed in Latin America. However the complications generated by TPO have become clear over the past few years in the negative headlines sparked by transfer confusion surrounding high-profile players such as Argentina’s Carlos Tevez and Brazil’s Neymar.
Only this week Spanish champions Barcelona were warned that they risk action from the tax authorities over alleged hidden costs in their purchase of Neymar from Santos last year.
Champagne is the only man to have declared a candidacy formally though Blatter, president of FIFA since 1998, has indicated he is ready to continue.
Michel Platini, French leader of UEFA and long-time favourite to succeed Blatter, appears increasingly likely to seek four more years at the helm of the European federation instead. He could justify sitting tight on the need to see through the introduction of financial fair play and preside over the European Championships in his home country in 2016.