Chung Mong-joon announced Monday he will stand for the FIFA presidency, saying it’s “time to restore common sense” at the sport’s international governing body mired in corruption allegations.
Chung, the youngest son of Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung and a former FIFA vice president, launched his bid for the top job in world football at a press conference in the French capital, where FIFA was founded in 1904.
Chung had previously told the South Korean media that he would run for FIFA president, but this was his first declaration before the international press.
In his statement, Chung said FIFA is undergoing “a profound crisis” and he is just the right person to lead the organization out of the mess.
“Under these circumstances, the FIFA president must be a crisis manager and a reformer. He must be more than just a head of the technical department” he said. “After decades of an ever-widening circle of corruption, FIFA needs a leader who can bring back common sense, transparency and accountability. For any successful organization to be free of corruption, it needs periodic change of leadership.”
As corruption scandals have seen several FIFA officials arrested and indicted, incumbent head Sepp Blatter, who won his fifth term in May, has announced his resignation. He will remain in his post until the election scheduled for Feb. 26.
The deadline to register as a candidate is Oct. 26.
Chung Mong-joon announces his candidacy for FIFA president at a press conference in Paris on Aug. 17, 2015. (Yonhap)
Chung, 63, is a scion of the South Korean conglomerate Hyundai Group. He’s also a former legislator and a presidential candidate. He served as a FIFA vice president from 1994 to 2011, and as the chairman of the Korea Football Association from 1993 to 2009.
He helped bring the FIFA World Cup to South Korea for the first time in 2002, when it co-hosted the competition with Japan.
Against the backdrop of corruption allegations and the growing influence of Asia in world football, Chung said the time has never been riper for change at FIFA.
“We now live in a different era. FIFA needs to reflect the different reality,” he said. “Continuity is important, but so is change.”
Seven of the eight FIFA presidents so far have come from Europe, with Joao Havelange of Brazil as the lone exception. Yet Chung said, “Practically speaking, they were all Europeans.”
“If Europe had provided healthy and discerning leadership, would FIFA be in this kind of mess today?” Chung asked. “This is not a criticism, but an appeal to you to think.”
He also placed blame on Blatter for ruining FIFA.
“The real reason FIFA has become such a corrupt organization is because the same person and his cronies have been running it for 40 years,” he said. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Chung will go up against UEFA President Michel Platini. Though Liberian football chief Musa Bility and former Brazilian great Zico have also entered the race, Chung has said he considers himself and Platini as the leading candidates, and that he believes he has a chance to beat out the European football chief.
Platini, 60, has secured support from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and other regional associations. Chung argued, however, that Platini shouldn’t run for the top FIFA job because the Frenchman had been part of the corrupt FIFA system himself.
“This is not a good situation for Michel and I think it is good for Michel Platini not to be a candidate this time,” Chung said. “He is still very young.”
Chung also said Platini and Blatter were once so close that they had a “father and son” and “mentor-student” relationship, though Platini has since turned his back on Blatter. In the May election, Platini supported Blatter’s opponent, Jordanian Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein.
Chung repeated his earlier pledge that he will only serve one four-year term, if elected.
“I can change FIFA in four years,” he said. “Organizations begin to corrupt when the leader thinks he is indispensable.”
Chung also promised to strengthen “checks and balances” between the FIFA presidency, its Executive Committee and judicial bodies. He also offered to improve financial transparency and disclose the president’s salary and other expenses.
Chung added that he plans to increase financial assistance to national football federations through “a more sensible and flexible mechanism of distribution.”