Zurich: 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 in an exclusive interview in Zurich, Switzerland on Friday (October 30).
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."
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.
Champagne wanted to run for the presidency earlier this year but failed to get the written backing from five national associations that was needed to register. He now has the five but refused to reveal their names for security reasons.
"I cannot reveal their names, not because I`m against transparency, because you will see, if president there will be a transparent FIFA, but I don`t what to say that at that stage because I need to protect them. You know, we are in a system where some confederations play a very good role and would not think about threatening a federation, but some would do that, so I want to protect the people who have decided to support me for the moment," said the FIFA candidate.
Swiss authorities are investigating the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively and the United States Department of Justice has indicted 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives on a series of corruption charges.
Since 2010, FIFA`s own Ethics Committee has banned more than a dozen current and former members of the executive committee, either while in office or after they had left, for unethical conduct including bribery.
"Frankly, I`m not ashamed of what I`ve done there (at FIFA). But what I feel is that, we need someone who knows what has been done correctly, who knows what can be kept, who knows what can be increased but also, someone who knows what needs to be changed," said Champagne, who worked at FIFA from 1999 until 2010 under Blatter.
Champagne said the presidential campaign had got off to an ugly start and called for televised debates.
The seven candidates are Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Musa Hassan Bility, Jerome Champagne, Gianni Infantino, Michel Platini, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Tokyo Sexwale. The decision takes place on February 26.