by Umaid Wasim
IF Jerome Champagne becomes FIFA president, he will distribute more development projects — but they will come with greater and stricter checks.
The former deputy secretary general of FIFA is one of the candidates in the Feb 26 elections of world’s football governing body where he will bid to succeed Sepp Blatter.
If elected, the Frenchman has set a target of building 400 artificial turf pitches worldwide within four years as part of FIFA’s Goal projects.
“Its very clear that FIFA money is public money,” Jerome told Dawn in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Play the Game conference on Monday, hours before he was due to speak at the event with fellow presidential candidate David Nakhid of the Trinidad and Tobago.
“But if we spend the money, we have to control its use. We need to do more in terms of the FIFA development programme.”
Jerome, who worked in FIFA from 1999 till 2010, said the idea will promote the game in emerging countries.
“Close to my home [in Zurich], there are five natural and one artificial turf — that’s more pitches in a small place than in an African country,” the former diplomat said.
“During my time as FIFA’s director of international relations [from 2007-2010], we’ve seen that the investment in grassroots has helped the national teams rise.
“After installing pitches in Cape Verde, they qualified for successive African Cup of Nations [in 2013 and 2015] while the Comoros Island reached the second round of 2018 World Cup qualifying from Africa.
“Those examples show that the development projects have helped.”
However, there are examples where Goal Projects haven’t really helped and Jerome agreed that there need to be stricter checks on how the federations use FIFA money for the development programmes and that the federations need to be educated.
“I visited a technical centre in Benin which had everything but there was no one training there,” he said. “We need to make sure that the use of the facilities is better.”
Jerome added that he will make sure that Goal Projects aren’t distributed for political gains, referring to the situation in Pakistan.
Pakistan received eight Goal projects but just one — the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) headquarters is complete and fully functional.
“I haven’t visited Pakistan so I can’t comment on why they are incomplete,” he said. “However, we all know who the FIFA development officer was who distributed the projects.
“We all now know that Manilal Fernando [former Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) president] was distributing Goal projects and using his positition for political gains.”
Fernando was handed a life ban by FIFA in 2013 and the Sunday Times, in a wide-ranging report on Qatar’s World Cup winning bid last year, disclosed exactly how he had distributed the projects to win support at the AFC elections in 2011.
“We need to make sure that the Goal Projects aren’t used for such means in the future,” said Jerome as he defended his manifesto in which he says he is keen on giving more to the member associations.
“The FIFA programme doesn’t work correctly. Federations of smaller countries need more money for development of the game and we need to understand that.”
Jerome spoke about the current situation in the PFF and said that FIFA needed to be smarter when making decisions on government interference in member associations.
FIFA has presently given PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat two years to hold fresh elections after months of bitter wrangling in Pakistan’s football governing body, which saw it split into two factions.
The FIFA decision hasn’t been clear enough and confusion remains in Pakistan as to who is in and who is out of the PFF and whether the PFF Congress comprises members elected in 2011 or 2015.
“We need a strong FIFA with a vision,” he said. “Some people are using FIFA to protect themselves. During my time as FIFA’s international relations director, I saw several cases in which the federation was wrong and the national government or the clubs were right. We need a capacity to analyse.”
World football was thrown into turmoil in May when US prosecutors disclosed an indictment of nine football officials, including several from FIFA, and five sports marketing executives.
Further investigation by the US and Swiss authorities has seen Blatter being suspended along with former presidential front-runner and UEFA president Michel Platini.
Platini, however, had already submitted his bid for FIFA presidency before the ban and along with Jerome and Nakhid is one of potential six contenders for the top job in world football.
Other candidates vying the job include Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan and South African tycoon Tokyo Sexwale while reports from Bahrain suggested AFC president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain had also decided to run.
The deadline to submit the candidacy was Monday.
FPDC staff adds: Jerome Champagne’s speech in the Play The Game 2015 conference session “Reforming football: To be or not to be… a FIFA President” (26 Oct 2015) can be viewed here https://playit.pk/watch?v=bfK99oUtAHM