Candidate Champagne says FIFA must iron out inequalities
By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) - Alarmed at the financial gulf between soccer's haves and have-nots, FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne says a more even distribution of riches will be a priority if he wins election in February.
Making his pitch for the top job at the governing body of a multi-billion dollar sport courted by household name sponsors and broadcasters alike, he says strong governance to spread the wealth is vital for the body engulfed in corruption allegations.
Highlighting the divisions, the former French diplomat pointed out that the top European clubs spend millions on players while Papua New Guinea's football federation struggles to pay air fares for its team.
"The 20 wealthiest clubs in the world have a cumulative turnover of 6.2 billion euros ($6.90 billion) per year, but more than half the 209 national football federations survive with less than 2 million euros a year (each)," he told Reuters.
"The national team of Papua New Guinea plays only two matches a year because they cannot afford the plane tickets. The annual budget is not even half a million euros."
He sees those disparities across the sport - not least in the Swiss city of Zurich, the home of FIFA, and where the election will take place to replace Sepp Blatter, who stepped down after the body became submerged in police and ethics investigations.
"Near my flat in Zurich is a park; there are six football pitches, five natural and one artificial; this suburb of Zurich has more good quality pitches than the whole of the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 70 million inhabitants," he said.
"In the Congolese professional league, at the Stade des Volcans in Goma, they play on volcanic sand," he said. Continued...