By Steve Menary
16 January 2012
FIFA’s former director of international relations Jérôme Champagne has entered the debate over the future governance of the world body by sending a detailed assessment of the problems facing the game and potential remedies to all 208 members.
A former French diplomat, member of the 1998 World Cup organising committee in France and journalist with France Football magazine, Champagne was widely perceived as the one senior executive at FIFA untainted by corruption allegations before being sacked in mysterious circumstances in 2010.
His surprise entry into the debate over FIFA’s future could well see the Frenchman emerge as a potential successor to Sepp Blatter, who is due to retire as FIFA president in 2015.
Any challenge by Champagne would shake-up any assumptions that Michel Platini is a shoo-in for football’s top job.
Concerned over what FIFA’s new Independent Governance Committee, chaired by Swiss Professor Mark Pieth, can achieve, Champagne has produced an impressively detailed 25-page document identifying seven key governance problems and 11 proposals for reform, detailed in a moment.
He also addresses the thorny issue of the Home Nations’ privileged status within FIFA, which gives England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland collectively the right to nominate their own FIFA vice-president on a permanent basis.
Champagne suggests this is anachronistic and actually harms England’s role within world football.
He says: “Regarding the British vice-presidency, remnant of a historical domination, it should be discussed without any taboo because it resulted into a long absence of English representative from FIFA’s highest body and a feeling of isolation and resentment towards FIFA among English football community due to inter-British rivalries around the three Celtic nations.
“One can even believe that without this statutory British vice-presidency, English football which brings so much to world football would have been much more often elected to the Executive Committee.”
The overall analysis put forward in his letters sent over the weekend to the 208 FIFA members may trouble representatives of the six regional confederations who hold so much power on FIFA’s Executive Committee (ExCo) and have proved susceptible to bribes, as Champagne advocates greater power for FIFA’s 208 members to lead on governance.
Champagne says: “After two years of silence, I wish now to contribute to this debate. Because I love passionately this sport called football. Because I think that the FIFA I served loyally during eleven years, has a fundamental role to play for the governance of football. Finally, because I am convinced that our world needs the universality of football and its transformative power to become fairer, more solidarity and more united around common global goals.
“Like the other human activities, football has been through a deep evolution in the past 20 years with the impact of a loosely-controlled globalization, of a strong increase of inequalities in parallel of a phenomena of sport, financial and commercial concentration, and of the search of sport success at any cost.
“Changing trends influencing our societies – growth of individualism, influence of new technologies, extreme and instant mediatisation of any event, preference for short-termism – obviously affect football as well.”
Champagne believes the debate on FIFA’s future must revolve around four key principles.
1: These are a proactive FIFA for football governance.
2: Football associations repositioned at the heart of the decision-making process although still involving confederations, leagues, clubs and players.
3: Fairer football income redistribution to compensate current inequalities.
4: Governance based on modernity, transparency, democratic debate and ethics.
His recommendations include greater autonomy for the game from the strictures of the European Union and a seat on at least one FIFA committee for every member of the world body to open up governance, instead of leaving key votes on governance issues to ExCo.
Champagne’s assessment may prove a hard sell to a few commercial stakeholders in financially stronger countries, but he advocates clubs and players working with the world body and striking a form of ‘collective bargaining agreement’.
CHAMPAGNE’S PROPOSALS FOR REFORM
• Revive the democratic debate within football pyramid.
• Increase even more development programs with new solidarity mechanisms.
• Involve leagues, clubs and players in the decision-making process.
• Restore the role and the centrality of the FAs while clarifying the relations with the confederations.
• Adjust FIFA to the evolutions of today’s world to reflect them better.
• Reshuffle the power responsibilities between the FIFA President, the Executive Committee and the Associations.
• Strengthen FIFA’s governance structures.
• Reform FIFA’s administration.
• Modify the insulation of refereeing debates.
• Define and implement a more comprehensive notion of autonomy.
• Reconnect FIFA with the “people of football”.
Champagme turned down many offers to speak about his time at the world body until finally breaking cover in October, when he gave a long detailed assessment of his view of the problems affecting the game at the bi-annual Play The Game conference, held in Cologne in 2011.
In a long, detailed and well received speech, he identified the seven governance problems within the game such as a disparity between powers held by Europe and the rest of the world, and how money from the Champions League skews domestic leagues.
Now, with his new assessment, Champagne has provided 11 potential solutions that come from an experienced FIFA insider now independent from the world body.
During his time in FIFA, Champagne was often viewed as a potential successor to Blatter and received plaudits for a number of initiatives from helping introduce a system to regulate international club transfers, to trying to help Kosovo’s footballers, bringing together the Turkish and Greek factions in Cyprus and aiding Palestine’s footballers – a mission he has continued since leaving FIFA.
Champagne will still not discuss his departure from the world body, which he calls “anecdotal”. Unlike the quartet of veteran investigative journalists, Jens Weinreich, Andrew Jennings, Jean François Tanda and Thomas Kistner, who recently refused an offer to work with FIFA’s Independent Governance committee, he is convinced that Blatter must lead reforms and was keen to stress this in Cologne.
Champagne is concerned about the make-up of Pieth’s committee, but wants the world body to reform itself. His proposals, which have been sent out before the governance committee meets, are likely to be well received by FIFA’s 208 members but perhaps less so by Platini.
Unlike the UEFA president, the Swiss-based Champagne has no regional bloc of support but his well-considered analysis and proposals for reform aimed at stirring debate among FIFA members ahead of the governance committee could be sufficiently well received to see him rather than Platini emerge as Blatter’s anointed successor by 2015.