Champagne says FIFA rival Infantino's plans are financially "dangerous"
By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne has criticised the plans of rival Gianni Infantino as being financially "dangerous" for global soccer's beleaguered ruling body.
In a letter to FIFA's 209 member national associations (FAs), who each hold one vote in the election, Champagne suggested that Infantino's plans could add an extra $900 million to FIFA's expenditure over the next four years.
FIFA is engulfed by a graft scandal that has led to the indictment of several dozen leading soccer officials in the United States and is under enormous pressure to reform.
Frenchman Champagne and Swiss Infantino are among five candidates standing to replace outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter, himself banned for eight years for ethics violations, in Friday's election.
Infantino, the general secretary of European soccer's governing body UEFA, has promised to distribute 5 million dollars every four years to each FA for football development, plus $40 million to each of the six continental confederations over the same period.
Infantino's campaign spokesmen did not immediately comment.
Earlier this month, he defended the proposals to FAs from the North, Central American and Caribbean region in Miami.
"I was criticised when I made these proposals, they said 'Ah, you are trying to buy votes'," Infantino said. "I am not buying anything. It is not my money, it is your money. FIFA's money is your money, the national associations' money."
In the published on Saturday letter, Champagne said that Infantino had made "tempting proposals on paper, which in reality are very dangerous".
He said FIFA's budget for the 2015-18 cycle, which was approved by the FIFA Congress in 2014, predicted an estimated income of 5 billion dollars over the four years.
He said that, although FIFA had initially projected a $100 million profit for the period, that could turn into a deficit of $600 million.
"FIFA is currently going through a difficult period with a deficit of about $100 million in 2015," he said.
Its problems included "many contracts with economic partners that remain unsigned to date, a worst-case projected reduction in income of $600 million until 2018, and the possibility of a fine at the end of the ongoing investigations," Champagne said.
"It seems therefore ludicrous to promise nearly a billion dollars with political and electoral objectives, after having criticised FIFA and President Blatter for years on the alleged grounds that he received votes in exchange for development programs.
"The situation requires that we employ very careful management, and a significant reduction of administrative costs, until the smoke clears and we have a clear handle on the financial future of FIFA."
The other candidates are Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan and South African businessman and politician Tokyo Sexwale.
(Editing by Andrew Roche)