Senior heads roll at FIFA

The revolving door at FIFA House is swinging at hurricane speed as Jerome Champagne resigned as director of international relations just two months after Hans Klaus quit as communications director.

Frenchman Champagne, a former career diplomat, had been considered something of a loose cannon within FIFA.

He had served as diplomatic adviser to president Sepp Blatter, as deputy general secretary, and, latterly, with responsibility for guiding negotiations with the European Commission over the controversial 6+5 doctrine.

The “floating” nature of Champagne’s role within FIFA had led to concerns from some confederations that he was overstepping his remit. However, speculation that he might have been plotting to stand against Blatter for the presidency seems to have been wide of the mark.

At least he lasted longer than Klaus, who had been “imported” from Japan Tobacco in May 2008 as director of communications. Klaus resigned in December 2009 after having been reported absent from the World Cup draw in Cape Town on the grounds of flu.

A Chelsea fan, Klaus had no previous executive experience in sport. His brief was to expand Blatter’s strategy to promote football as a worldwide force for social, educational and medical change. Ultimately he was undermined by his own lack of knowledge and understanding of the levers of football (and FIFA) power.

The role of communications director seems to be a poisoned chalice. Klaus was the third to go in seven years, after Keith Cooper and then Markus Siegler. In 2008, FIFA, also “lost” long-serving media spokesman Andreas Herren, who has since put his insider knowledge at the service of Russia’s World Cup bid.

Of course, everyone went through the door with the good grace which betokens an agreed financial farewell.

In a statement released by FIFA, Champagne said that he wished “to thank Joseph S Blatter for the real privilege of having been able to serve the world of football over the years, all in the noble cause of helping to build a better world”.

Klaus claimed his involvement “has been a great experience and definitely a valuable enrichment for my professional career to work for FIFA over the past two years. FIFA is a fascinating organisation in the fascinating world of football”.

While their departures may have strengthened the position of general secretary Jerome Valcke, this may be only temporary.

Valcke has emerged in an increasingly up-front role as he leads the 2010 World Cup preparations, though this may not serve him well in the long run. Blatter is wary about anyone establishing too strong a power base of their own within FIFA House. As a former general secretary, he should know.

In the meantime, head of media Nicolas Maingot has been appointed as acting FIFA director of communications and public affairs, while deputy head of media Pekka Odriozola has stepped up as acting head of media.