Champagne points finger as FIFA TV debate axed

FIFA (File)
FIFA (File)

London - A televised debate between the five hopefuls for the FIFA presidency has been cancelled because three contenders refused to take part, French candidate Jerome Champagne said on Tuesday.

"Very disappointed that ESPN had to cancel the proposed live TV debate between FIFA presidential candidates planned on 29 Jan in London," Champagne wrote on his official Twitter account.

"Myself and Mr. Ali Al-Hussein had accepted while the 3 others refused! No additional comment needed!"

The three other candidates cited by Champagne are UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, South African tycoon Tokyo Sexwale and Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.

A spokesman from American broadcaster ESPN confirmed to AFP that the debate had been cancelled.

"We invited all five candidates to take part in a debate and made every effort to explore logistical options with them," he said.

"Ultimately, we did not gain the commitments needed to deliver a program that would meet our standards."

Prince Ali was "disappointed" to learn that the debate had been cancelled, a spokesman from his campaign told AFP.

A spokesman from Infantino's campaign told AFP that the Swiss had been "happy in principle" to take part in the debate.

Champagne, a former FIFA official, former FIFA vice-president Prince Ali and the three other candidates have also been invited to take part in a separate debate at the European Parliament in Brussels on January 27.

Campaign group New FIFA Now, which is organising the Brussels debate, expects Champagne, Sexwale, Infantino and Prince Ali to take part, the latter by video link.

The FIFA presidential election, when a successor to the disgraced Sepp Blatter will be voted in at the head of world football's governing body, will take place in Zurich on February 26.

Blatter was banned for eight years by FIFA's ethics committee last month over a "disloyal payment" of two million Swiss francs ($2 million/1.8 million euro) made in 2011 to UEFA president Michel Platini, who was also banned.

FIFA's ethics committee investigatory chamber announced on Tuesday that it will appeal for the pair's suspensions to be lengthened.

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