By James Corbett
29 December 2015
Major broadcaster ESPN is taking steps to organise a live televised debate between the five candidates still in the running to become the most powerful man in world football, Sportingintelligence can reveal. The US giant has proposed a date of 29 January 2016 and a location of London for the FIFA presidential candidates’ debate, with the format yet to be agreed. Invitations have been issued.
Five candidates remain in the running to succeed Sepp Blatter, the now disgraced former FIFA president recently banned from all football for eight years. Those candidates are Prince Ali bin Hussein, Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, Jerome Champagne, Tokyo Sexwale and Gianni Infantino and full details about their campaigns and the whole process can be found in this website’s guide to the 2016 election.
Jerome Champagne has confirmed the putative ESPN initiative in a Sportingintelligence candidate interview to be published on this site tomorrow.
‘I can tell you that ESPN proposed to the candidates a televised debate in London on 29 January and I have already expressed my agreement,’ he said, although he appeared to cast doubt on whether it will happen as planned.
‘I feel that unfortunately – as I have said already when I launched this campaign myself – that it will be a succession of deals done behind closed doors of five-star hotels.’
Prince Ali Bin Hussein’s office confirmed that they have received an invitation and are currently assessing his travel schedule.
Three of the five candidates – Champagne, Prince Ali and Tokyo Sexwale – are appearing at a debate at the European Parliament organised by the reform group, New FIFA Now, on 27 January. A fourth candidate, Gianni Infantino, is also expected to attend that event.
Attempts to organise a televised debate ahead of last May’s election failed when Blatter refused to take part. The other three candidates – then FIFA vice-president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Dutch FA president Michael van Praag and former Portugal international Luis Figo – had all agreed to take part in the debate, but after Blatter rebuffed the offer the plans died.
UPDATE 11.15pm 29 December
‘ESPN has invited all five candidates vying for the FIFA presidency to participate in a debate,’ a network spokesman confirmed to Reuters via email. ‘Our goal is to provide a forum for an open, transparent discussion about the future governance of the sport in advance of the election that will determine who occupies the most powerful position in global football.’
Sportingintelligence’s guide to the 2016 FIFA presidential election: HOME PAGE here