Following the World Cup last summer I spoke with Jerome Champagne, the so-far sole candidate to challenge Sepp Blatter for his apparent iron grip on FIFA’s presidency. Champagne is a former French diplomat whose overseas postings took him to the Middle East, Brazil, Cuba, and the United States (he worked at the French consulate in Los Angeles prior to the 1994 World Cup) and – this is the interesting part – was Blatter’s ‘international relations adviser’ for several years.
So, Champagne is a pro at diplomacy. A common theme ran through our discussion. A future FIFA must boost the sport in ‘developing’ nations with huge populations previously ‘neglected’ by the world governing body. Specifically: India, China, Indonesia, and the United States, countries that represent 45% of the world’s population. And, yes, the U.S. is a developing nation when it comes to football.
“The objective must be for China to bid for the World Cup,” the 56-year-old said in the interview which ran in the South China Morning Post. “Bidding for the World Cup and hosting it is a huge speeding-up process for the development of the sport. Look at what happened in the US when the World Cup was organised there for 1994.”
The U.S. experience is Champagne’s template and why he believes nations with huge populations – where coincidentally football is not hegemonic – need to be encouraged.
So under Champagne, expect China, the U.S., Indonesia, and India to be encouraged to host more FIFA events including the World Cup.
FIFA, according to Champagne, is similar to many international organisations in its world view but he said it was time to rebalance the body’s powerbase from Europe and South America to be more representative of its 209-federation members.
“There was a time when the G7 countries believed they could run the world and now we have the G20,” Champagne said.
“It is the same evolution.”