Champagne says he can't beat Blatter in FIFA fight

Mon Jan 20, 2014 9:41am EST
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By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - Jerome Champagne launched his bid to stand for the FIFA presidency on Monday but immediately undermined his campaign by saying he did not think he could beat Sepp Blatter should the Swiss incumbent stand for re-election.

Frenchman Champagne, 55, a former diplomat, worked at FIFA for 11 years from 1999 and is a former deputy Secretary General of world soccer's governing body.

At a packed London news conference he confirmed his plans to stand for the most influential job in soccer, with a program of reform aimed at limiting the influence of the richer sections of the game.

However, after outlining details of his policy ideas and setting the ball rolling for a potential 15-month campaign, he was left stalled on the grid when he admitted he would probably not beat Blatter and might not even stand should his former boss attempt to hold on to power.

Asked if he could beat Blatter, who hinted last week that he would stand again, Champagne said: "No I don't think so, he's someone of relevance. I don't know whether Mr. Blatter will run or not. Of course as a matter of politeness I informed him what I was planning to do."

Blatter, who turns 78 in March, may well bid for a fifth term of office while there could also be a challenge by UEFA president Michel Platini for the role second only to the presidency of the International Olympic Committee in global sporting importance.

Champagne, little known to fans and those outside FIFA and diplomatic circles but a long-time colleague of Blatter, added that he would decide whether to maintain his self-funded campaign if his former boss decided to stand again.

His surprise declarations undermined a generally accomplished performance at the site where the English FA, the world's oldest, was founded in 1863.   Continued...

Jerome Champagne (R), FIFA's director for international relations, attend a meeting with Kuwaiti Clubs in Kuwait February 9, 2008. REUTERS/Tariq AlAli