Jerome Champagne: Sepp Blatter is 'not a dictator'

    Jérôme Champagne: FIFA needs 'fresh air'
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    Story highlights

    • Sepp Blatter isn't corrupt nor is he a dictator, says Jerome Champagne
    • Former diplomat is bidding to replace 78-year-old as FIFA president in 2015 elections
    • Champagne says FIFA needs "fresh air" but issue is not Blatter
    • The 56-year-old also urges FIFA to make report into World Cup bidding process public
    Jerome Champagne, the only candidate currently standing against FIFA president Sepp Blatter, is resolutely refusing to take the gloves off against his rival in the race to decide who will lead football's world governing body.
    Given the criticism Sepp Blatter and his organization has faced over its governance in recent years some might argue Champagne has been presented with a virtual own goal for his campaign -- but not a bit of it.
    "Blatter is not corrupt," Champagne told CNN's World Sport. "I'm not here to defend Blatter but I want him to be a responsible candidate and an efficient president."
    England's Football Association chairman Greg Dyke recently described a FIFA meeting as "like something out of North Korea" in which the organization's federations adopted an attitude to Blatter of "hail to the leader."
    But Champagne rejected the idea that Blatter ruthlessly controls things from the top, rather seeing the man who has been at FIFA's helm for the past 16 years as akin to the leader of a democratically elected head of state.
    "The FIFA president, according to the constitution of FIFA, he's not a dictator, said Champagne.
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    "I give you an example. In the UK, which is a democracy, British people vote for the Prime Minister. When the Prime Minister is elected, he or she has a right to set up a cabinet in order to implement the program that he or she has been elected for.
    "That's democracy and of course he or she will be controlled by the Parliament, by the house. You think the FIFA President can choose the government to implement the program he has been elected for the 209 federations? Not at all."
    While describing the 78-year-old Blatter as someone "who is married with football," Champagne insisted the organization needed "fresh air."
    The 56-year-old former FIFA insider added: "The issue is not the person, it's the program, it's the vision. It's what we do with the tools, with the administration," he says.
    "I'm not happy with the situation of FIFA and I'm not happy with the situation of football. I think football is an amazing tool and FIFA can be an amazing machine to have a model of world governance.
    "That's why I decided to run. It's about taking risks. If you don't take risks in your life nothing will happen."
    The Frenchman's insistence on playing the ball and not the man may have something to do with his former life as a diplomat, but equally it may be informed by an intimate knowledge of how the Swiss-based organization operates.
    The 56-year-old spent 11 years with FIFA employing his diplomatic skills in the footballing arena as director of international relations from 1999 to 2010.
    During his time there, Champagne worked closely with Blatter, tasked with overseeing improvements in relations with national associations and other international sporting bodies including the International Olympic Committee.
    After being relieved of his duties at FIFA at the beginning of 2010 for reasons never fully explained, Champagne set up as an independent consultant advising a number of clubs and associations including the Kosovo Football Federation and the Palestine Football Association.
    The relationship with the latter has focused on establishing a professional league in the state as well promoting better relations with Israel's Football Association and National Olympic Committee.
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    However, given Champagne's previous close links with Blatter's controversial stewardship, can the Frenchman be trusted to deliver sweeping reforms?
    "I hope, I believe I can and also I believe we need (it)," he insists. "I don't mind when people are telling me: 'you worked with Blatter, how can you be the face of change?'
    "Fine, we can debate that and I can show what I have done when I was there ... So listen, it's part of democracy and that's why I decided to stand."
    Last week, Blatter tweeted that FIFA was taking the lead in acting "ethically," despite the organization facing criticism over the the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.
    Champagne's enthusiasm to expose his own record to public scrutiny is something that FIFA should be doing with U.S. lawyer Michael Garcia's report into that bidding process, the Frenchman argues.
    FIFA wants to keep the report private, but Garcia, who passed his report to FIFA's ethics chief Hans-Joachim Eckert earlier this month, says it should be made public.
    "We need to know what happened," said Champagne. "A judicial process which is open where the citizen can buy the process, can be part of the process knowing why a person is indicted and the person is innocent or guilty.
    "It's very important and I think the release of the report is very important because it will be a part of the rebuilding of the image of FIFA because it's definitely needed."
    FIFA members will elect a new president in May 2015.