- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

LONDON (AP) - Moments after stating his intention to run for FIFA president next year, Jerome Champagne hinted that he might abandon his challenge if Sepp Blatter stands for a fifth term.

Champagne, a Frenchman who is a former Blatter adviser, on Monday became the first person to declare his candidacy for football’s top job, saying he will seek the five required nominations.

“We need a different FIFA, more democratic, more respected, which behaves better and which does more,” said Champagne, a former diplomat who unexpectedly left FIFA in 2010 after 11 years of service.

Before being re-elected unopposed in 2011, Blatter said this would be his final four-year term. But the 77-year-old Swiss official has hinted he could go for a fifth term in 2015.

Asked if he could beat Blatter, Champagne said: “No, I don’t think. He is someone of relevance.”

Pressed repeatedly to say if he would stand against Blatter, Champagne responded vaguely, and avoided any criticism of Blatter’s reign, which stretches back to 1998.

“I don’t know what he will do,” Champagne said. “I am telling you that I am standing, but I don’t know what will happen in the next four months … some people say I am manipulated by him but I tell you no.”

UEFA President Michel Platini is also mulling over whether to seek the post.

Before entering football, Champagne’s diplomatic postings included four years in Los Angeles as deputy consul-general. He worked as protocol chief when France hosted the 1998 World Cup, then joined FIFA soon after Blatter was elected.

Troubled relations with confederations were reportedly a factor in Champagne leaving FIFA in January 2010.

As international relations director, Champagne’s work was acclaimed but reportedly angered some confederation presidents.

Pele has given Champagne his support.

“I know his vision of football and the future of the game and for this reason I trust him,” Pele said on a video shown at the launch. “We have worked together for many years and he has the experience as he has been in FIFA for a long time.

“I am a friend of everyone who loves football and I want the best for football and he is a person everyone can trust.”

In a manifesto, Champagne outlined plans to “rebalance” football in the 21st century, highlighting the need to address the “elitist way in which competitions are developing, with a significant and ever increasing imbalance between continents, countries and even within specific leagues.”

While unable to say how he would intervene, Champagne pointed to the lack of a level playing field in Spain, where Real Madrid and Barcelona secure much of the TV revenue, and the wealth of some English Premier League clubs.

He was also unclear about how he could restrict “exorbitant wages and transfer fees,” while saying they were affecting the credibility of football.

Speaking at the site where the Football Association was founded in 1863, Champagne did back English calls for rules to ensure more homegrown players play in matches.

On the rules of the game itself, Champagne said he would expand goal-line technology to rule on offside decisions and penalties.


Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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