David Ginola is running for president of FIFA! Or at least that's what he says. Saying he "has nothing to lose," the former French international footballer and Tottenham Hotspur star has announced that he's throwing his hat into the ring to challenge incumbent FIFA president Sepp Blatter in elections that will take place later in 2015.
Ginola's candidacy is, at first blush, a breath of fresh air in an election process that already seems stale, corrupt, and pre-determined. Public opinion about FIFA under Sepp Blatter is extremely low after recent years have revealed numerous corruption scandals: former committee member Chuck Blazer has admitted to taking and receiving bribes in the past, and the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar respectively were almost certainly influenced more by money and corruption than by democratic votes. FIFA's ethics investigator Michael Garcia recently resigned after FIFA refused to let him rebut a summarized (and apparently twisted) version of his own report on the 2018 and 2022 Cups. At present, Ginola would be up against Blatter, who is running for a fifth term as FIFA chairman, former FIFA deputy secretary Jerome Champagne, and Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein.
However, there are already questions being asked about the legitimacy and seriousness of his bid. The Telegraph is reporting that Ginola is being paid £250,000 by bookmaker Paddy Power to fund his campaign, which could signal a conflict of interest or that his bid is a glorified publicity stunt. Moreover, Ginola would likely be the least qualified candidate: when interviewed about his campaign, Ginola admitted that he didn't know very much about FIFA or how the organization was run, and he was unable to name a single member of FIFA's current executive committee.
That clearly hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for the bid. While Ginola hasn't received any public backing from any of the FIFA football federations (UEFA, CONCACAF, AFC, CAF, OFC, or CONMEBOL), Ginola's high name recognition and recent comments about his candidacy indicate a populist campaign centered around attracting common football fans to his cause. In a YouTube video announcing his run (that features prominent Paddy Power branding), Ginola announced that he's running for the FIFA presidency "because like you, I love football... we all know the FIFA system isn't working. The game needs to change."
Ginola's bid isn't assured yet. Without major support from federations or highly influential people connected to FIFA or to world football, he faces a steeply uphill battle against firmly entrenched opponents with gobs of money. Ginola has promised that he will learn more about the FIFA and its organizational structure before the elections, but he still needs support from five of FIFA's federations in order to formally run. The deadline for submitting all documents and support is January 29, just 13 days away, making this an extremely daunting task. Even fellow Frenchman Arsene Wenger has admitted that Ginola "has very little chance" of success. It remains to be seen whether Ginola will receive the financial support needed from a populist campaign to effectively mount a dark-horse campaign for one of world sports' most entrenched organizations.
Ginola earned 17 caps for the French international team during his career, and played in 100 matches with Tottenham Hotspur, winning the League Cup with Spurs in 1999. He is acknowledged as a Tottenham legend and is beloved by Spurs fans. Ginola also played for PSG, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, and Everton.