By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) – FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne wants soccer’s crisis-hit government body to be less formal and more humble in the future.
FIFA has been buffeted by scandals that have seen both outgoing president Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini, previously considered the favourite to take over, both suspended for 90 days.
In addition to allegations of corruption, FIFA has been criticised for its extravagance, with officials enjoying a five-star lifestyle that includes private jets and banquets in opulent palaces.
“There are a lot of things I think we need to improve in terms of style,” Champagne, one of seven candidates for the February election, told Reuters.
The former French diplomat, who worked in various roles at FIFA from 1999 to 2010, said he wanted to reduce costs by five percent across all areas except development programmes.
“We can definitely save some costs on the administration and on the World Cup,” he said.
“The reconstruction of FIFA’s image will be achieved only if there is a change of style, which is more open to the people, more accessible and to some extent more humble,” he added.
“But at the same time, we are not going to stop paying electricity bills and use candles, just to look better … or travel with a donkey and a cart because it would be more populist.”
He suggested there was no need for FIFA officials to wear a suit when they sat in the VIP box at football matches.
“I think we can go to a stadium without a tie, smart-casual would be fine,” he said. “If you look at the images, when a wave is performed by the fans, you have all the colours of the shirts, and then suddenly a dark area with people who are not standing up.”
The draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifying competition, staged in St Petersburg in July, was typically opulent.
On the eve of the draw, delegations from 150 national associations were treated to a banquet at the Mikhailovsky Palace, the spectacular neoclassical main building of the Russian Museum in the city centre.
The draw itself took place in similarly impressive surroundings at the Konstantin Palace set in stunning grounds on the Gulf of Finland.
FIFA was thrown into turmoil in May with the indictment of 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives by U.S. prosecutors.
The decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively is being investigated by Swiss authorities and FIFA’s Ethics Committee has also been examining the Garcia report that looked into the selection process.
(Editing by Tom Heneghan)