PtG Article 16.01.2012

Champagne intervenes in debate on FIFA reform

FIFA’s former director of international relations, Jérôme Champagne, has joined the debate on reform of the world body by sending his personal diagnosis on the problems and potential solutions to all 208 FIFA members.

Jérôme Champagne's response comes ahead of the first meeting of FIFA’s new and widely disparaged Independent Governance Committee and centres on giving more power back to national associations from the Executive Committee (ExCo), which has been bedevilled by corruption claims that have led to a swathe of members standing down.

Railing against the impact of individualism and short-termism on football, Champagne says: “Like the other human activities, football has been through a deep evolution in the past twenty years with the impact of a loosely-controlled globalization, of a strong increase of inequalities in parallel of a phenomena of sport, financial and commercial concentration, of the search of sport success at any cost and of changing trends influencing our societies.”

Champagne – widely viewed as the one senior FIFA executive untainted by claims of corruption and seen in some quarters as a potential successor to embattled president Sepp Blatter – has drafted a 25-page document, which he emailed to all of FIFA’s membership over the weekend.

In the document entitled titled ‘Which FIFA for the 21st Century?’, Champagne writes: “Rather than a top-down approach, it is necessary to start from football and to be aware of these central issues to define what needs to be achieved and to determine what FIFA could become in the twenty-first century. FIFA being at the service of football, the analysis of football and of its challenges will define what FIFA should be and will be. And not the other [way] around!”

He shunned all offers to talk about his time at FIFA or give his views on the game’s seemingly endemic problems of corruption until accepting an offer to speak at the 2011 Play The Game conference in Cologne. His new assessment expands on Champagne’s appraisal in Germany, where he spoke at length in a well-received address about the seven key problems currently afflicting the world body.

Champagne and the seven dilemmas

In Germany, Champagne identified seven key relationships that have become increasingly problems within the game, which are:

  1. Grassroots’ and professional football
  2. Club football and international football
  3. European football and the rest of the world
  4. Clubs and players
  5. Balancing the need for money with excess
  6. Autonomy of football
  7. Globalisation, identity and imbalances

In his new assessment, Champagne cautions over a “dangerous cocktail of deregulation, globalization in a context of systemic research of legal, tax, regulatory and judicial loopholes to escape … football regulations,” which he feels have produced “some winners, a few, and a lot of losers.”

He writes: “In face of this crisis of a rudderless globalization without governance, states lose ground to the markets and the stock exchanges. But take this sentence and replace the words ‘states’, ‘markets’ and ‘stock exchanges’ by ‘federations’, ‘leagues’ and ‘clubs’ respectively, the similarity is even more striking.”

A former member of the France 1998 World Cup organizing committee, Champagne’s treatise to reform FIFA includes ensuring all 208 national associations are represented on at least one of the world body’s myriad committees to strengthen ties within the game and regular consultation with member associations using new technology. He also argues for greater autonomy for football from legislation, notably the European Union – an area that that he focused on during his time at FIFA – and a type of ‘collective bargaining agreement’ between players, clubs and the world body.

Champagne believes the debate on FIFA’s future must revolve around four key principles, which are:

  • Proactive FIFA for football governance
  • Football associations repositioned at the heart of the decision-making process although still involving confederations, leagues, clubs and players
  • Fairer football income redistribution to compensate current inequalities
  • Governance based on modernity, transparency, democratic debate and ethics

Champagne’s 11 proposals for reform

Working to these four key principles, Champagne proposes 11 platforms for reform of FIFA, which are:

  1. Revive the democratic debate within football pyramid
  2. Increase even more development programs with new solidarity mechanisms
  3. Involve leagues, clubs and players in the decision-making process
  4. Restore the role and the centrality of the FAs while clarifying the relations with the confederations
  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”

Although he favours greater powers for associations, Champagne also suggests expanding the blighted FIFA Executive Committee from its current 24 members up to 31. This new extended body would include new representation the president of players’ union, FIFPro, and a representative from the clubs/leagues. Other new members would come from extra seats for Africa, Asia, North and Central America/Caribbean, South American and one set aside for women’s football.

As Champagne indicated in Cologne, he still feels that Blatter and national associations must lead this reform but the former French diplomat, who spent 11 years at the world body, also has concerns over the links between members of the Independent Governance Committee and senior FIFA personnel. 

Formed at the behest of Blatter, the committee is chaired by Swiss professor Mark Pieth but has been hit by claims of lack of transparency and independence. Transparency International and Football Supporters Federation Europe have both refused to take part and were recently joined by a quartet of senior investigative journalists, Jens Weinreich, Andrew Jennings, Jean François Tanda and Thomas Kistner, who have declined to co-operate with Pieth’s committee over similar concerns, including the closeness of some members to senior figures within FIFA.

Champagne does not believe that all his suggestions will be adopted by FIFA, but he wants to stimulate a more open debate ahead ahead of the committee's first meeting coming up soon.


Read Champagne's document: Which FIFA for the 21st Century? (pdf)