February 2, 2015 / 8:22 AM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 2-Soccer-Champagne out of FIFA presidential race

(Adds quotes, writes through)

By Brian Homewood

BERNE, Feb 2 (Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne is out of the race after failing to win sufficient backing for his bid, saying that national associations feared "reprisals" if they supported him.

Champagne, needing the backing of five national associations for his bid, said in a statement that he had won the backing of only three.

The Frenchman said he had lost sponsorship after former Portugal forward Luis Figo and Dutch FA president Michael van Praag announced last week they would stand.

Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, a FIFA executive committee member, also announced early last month he was in the race to unseat Sepp Blatter.

"The institutions have mobilised to eliminate the only independent candidate," said Champagne, who has campaigned against what he says is growing inequality in the sport.

"The latest events orchestrated in secret... distributing letters of support between candidates, made me lose sponsorships especially in Europe.

"I also note that I would have been a candidate with the old version of the rules, and that I cannot be one with the new modifications adopted in 2013 on a UEFA proposal."

Blatter, in charge since 1998, is favourite to be re-elected for a fifth mandate in the election on May 29 where each of FIFA's 209 member associations hold one vote.

"The slogans put forward by the three candidates supported by UEFA clearly show that no one dares to question the central cause of the current problems of football," Champagne added.

Champagne, a former FIFA official, said there were "numerous" reasons why the federations had not supported him.

"Because they feared reprisals from their confederations having issued 'recommendations'. Because their federations were candidates to host continental competitions," he said.

"Because they relied too heavily on the financial support. Because they were committed to defend a united continental front."

In his three-page statement, Champagne said UEFA was trying to wrest control of soccer's governing body.

With one-third of the votes on FIFA's executive committee, European soccer's governing body "believes that it can decide everything", Champagne said.

"The hidden agenda -- or not so hidden after all -- is clear: under the guise of reforming FIFA lies the objective of further weakening it in favour of continental structures," he added.

"It constitutes the perennial vision of UEFA since 1998.

"It is also to pave the road for the wealthy actors of the Western European football to get their hands on the last thing they do not control yet: FIFA and the world government of football." (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty/Sudipto Ganguly)

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