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Champagne set to announce FIFA presidency bid

Asian Football Confederation's president, Mohammed Bin Hammam (R), and Jerome Champagne (2nd R) of FIFA, attend a meeting with Kuwaiti Clubs
Asian Football Confederation's president, Mohammed Bin Hammam (R), and Jerome Champagne (2nd R) of FIFA, attend a meeting with Kuwaiti Clubs

By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter's former right-hand man Jerome Champagne seems certain to announce a campaign to succeed Blatter as the most powerful man in world soccer after inviting the world's media to a news conference in London on Monday.

FIFA observers have been speculating for months about his plans following the publication of a far-reaching 20,000- word document in 2012 outlining his vision of the future governance and direction for world soccer.

Frenchman Champagne, 55, who was FIFA's deputy Secretary General from 2002 until 2005, has been working as an international soccer consultant in troubled regions such as Kosovo, Palestine and Israel and Cyprus since leaving FIFA in 2010.

In 2012 his "What FIFA for the 21st century?" document outlined some far-sighted views, while building on FIFA's traditional strengths. Central to his thinking are plans to expand the FIFA executive committee, bringing national FA's into the seat of governance and making FIFA more open and transparent.

In a previous interview with Reuters, Champagne said: "The election in 2015 is absolutely crucial for the future of the world game and will shape football for many years to come.

"We have to embrace new ideas and develop others like technology, we have to embrace the changes in the modern world, both in the way football is governed and how we redress the imbalances that have crept into the game.

"I may not have all the answers but at least I can open up the debate."

Blatter, who will be 78 in March, has been president since 1998 and was close to Champagne during his time at FIFA. Blatter has not yet confirmed whether he is standing for a fifth term of office when the elections are held in Zurich in 18 months' time.

However, he hinted this week in an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe that he did intend to stand and was not yet "too tired" to continue in one of the biggest jobs in world sport.

FIFA, comprising 209 member nations, more than the United Nations, organizes the world's most popular sport but under Blatter's long presidency has suffered a series of crises focused around financial scandals and mismanagement.

Champagne was at FIFA during many of Blatter's woes but was forced out of the organization after political infighting six months before the World Cup started in South Africa in 2010.

Blatter, who has won three election campaigns and also been acclaimed as president without any opposition once, is only the eighth president in the organization's 110-year history.

He said he will announce his intentions before this year's FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil in June.

UEFA president Michel Platini has also been linked with a bid for the presidency but has not yet declared his position.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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