FIFA ready for more Champagne?

By Editor | January 25th, 2012 1 Comment

By Andreas Selliaas in Norway (translated by Pelle Kvalsund)

The day after. Sunday 15 January, 2012, I received an email from the former director of FIFA’s international operations, Jerome Champagne. Receiving the e-mail on that particular Sunday was a bit odd since I had been to a champagne party the night before and the desire for something that had to do with champagne was very minimal. Attached to Mr. Champagne’s e-mail were three documents: a 25-page memo on how Champagne wants to reform FIFA, a press release from FIFA in 2010 on Champagne’s departure from FIFA, and a newspaper article from Le Monde the week before where Champagnes outlines the main points in the lengthy memo. The same e-mail was sent to all 208 members of FIFA and people attending the Play the Game conference in Cologne in October 2011. The memo is interesting in several respects.

Champagne’s-CV. Jerome Champagne is significant in the FIFA context. He was, as mentioned, head of their international operations for many years. He has been credited for shaping the new international transfer system for footballers and praised for FIFA’s assistance to the Football Federation of Kosovo, for bringing together football leaders from the Greek and Turkish sides in Cyprus, and for his assistance and on-going commitment to Palestinian football. A former French diplomat, Champagne held a key position in the organizing committee for the 1998 World Cup in France. He also has worked as a journalist. The reason for his departure from FIFA in 2010 is unclear. It is believed that he was sacked, but the real reason for his sudden departure is still unknown.

Silence in Cologne. Jerome Champagne was one of the speakers at Play the Game conference in Cologne last year. When he was asked why he had to depart from FIFA, he would not answer. He also refused to share any written material after his lecture to foreign sports journalists, sports academics and stakeholders in sports. Champagne is still silent about his sudden departure from FIFA, but has finally been willing to share his views on FIFA reforms in written form. And some of his views are quite controversial, possibly explosive.

7-11. In his documents Champagne lists seven problem areas for FIFA:

1. Amateur football and professional football
2. Club football and national team football
3. European football and football in the rest of the world
4. Clubs and players
5. Relationship of football with money between the need of it and the dangers of its excesses
6. Autonomy of football and dialogue with its environment, specificity and ordinary justice
7. Globalization, identity and imbalances

He also has 11 proposals for changing FIFA:

1. Revive the democratic debate within the football pyramid
2. Increase even more development programs with new solidarity mechanisms
3. Restore the role and the centrality of the FAs while clarifying the relations with the confederations
4. Involve leagues, clubs and players in the decision-making process
5. Adjust FIFA to the evolutions of today’s world to reflect them better
6. Reshuffle the power responsibilities between the FIFA President, the Executive Committee and the Associations
7. Strengthen FIFA’s governance structures
8. Reform FIFA’s administration
9. Modify the insulation of refereeing debates
10. Define and implement a more comprehensive notion of autonomy
11. Reconnect FIFA with the “people of football”

208-club. In Cologne, he surprised many observers when he said that Sepp Blatter was not the problem in FIFA. This from a man who was allegedly sacked? Champagne believed that the FIFA president had too little power, but that the Executive Committee (ExCo) — consisting of 24 persons (when no one is suspended) had too much power. His proposal was a democratization of FIFA in which all 208 member nations have more of a say in the choice of World Cup hosts, for example. Increasing the power of each member nation would circumvent the power of the continental confederations such as UEFA and CONCACAF. If such a change will lead to less corruption in FIFA is uncertain. The acclaimed journalist Steve Menary — who sat on the panel “FIFA under fire” I was leading during the Play the Game conference — is of the opinion that more power to each nation, and especially the smaller nations, would open up opportunities for more corruption through the FIFA Financial Assistance Programme (FAP). Nevertheless, if more power is given to each nation, the game of power and positions change dramatically in FIFA.

English misery. Champagne also criticizes the English FA and says that they should lose their “Home Nation” privilege, which allows the United Kingdom to have four member nations (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) and a vice-presidency in the FIFA ExCo. Champagne believes that this is old fashioned and do not serve British interests. He further claims that England would have been a far stronger nation in FIFA without an automatic pass into the ExCo. He suggests that the power struggle between the four associations in the UK sharply curtails the British ability to influence FIFA in the way they want. Whether the removal of Home Nation privilege would have given England a better opportunity to get the World Cup in 2018 I’m not sure, but one can speculate . . .

Champagne FIFA president? There are many interesting ideas in Champagne’s memo and many of them would help FIFA be more up to date and more transparent. But the question that arises is why he has suddenly reappeared with his reformist ideas and without criticizing FIFA-president Sepp Blatter. Further, why does he send these documents to me (and other hand-picked people)? Jerome Champagne was one of the most powerful people in FIFA and he has never been accused of being corrupt. He does not attack Blatter, instead he indirectly supports him. It almost seems like he is defending Blatter as a person and as FIFA-president. The question is whether this intervention is really an attack on UEFA president Michel Platini, the man most observers believe will succeed Blatter as President of FIFA. After all, changing the power structure in FIFA and devolving more power to each association at the expense of the confederations, would probably make the election of the FIFA President in 2015 a lot less predictable than it appears today. My sense is that Champagne will be one of the candidates.

Part of the Game? So why did I get this e-mail? One reason may be that on a couple of occasions I asked Champagne to send me his Cologne presentation in writing. Another reason could be that he wants to use me to spread his proposal for reform to countries that rarely qualify for major championships (I’m from Norway). The last reason could be that he would like to use me in his battle to become the new FIFA president. You are hereby warned!


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1 Comment


January 20th, 2014 | 8:20 am    

Now that Champagne has officially announced his candidacy for FIFA President in 2015, read his recent paper on reforming the world body:

JC’s website:

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