“Ego and jealousy take over” / France / Clermont / SOFOOT.com

A figure at Clermont Foot since the takeover of the club by Ahmet Schaefer in 2019, Jérôme Champagne was supposed to leave his position as adviser to the president according to an official press release published at the beginning of the week. A point of view that the principal concerned never shared. According to him, he should have been kicked out of the club. The former FIFA member presented his version of the facts.


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According to the club’s press release published on Monday, you will leave Clermont by choice. How did you experience it on your side?
The press release is completely misleading. You can’t leave your child. Clermont Foot is a project that we set up: Ahmet Schaefer, Yannick Flavien and me. I had quite a long career, in diplomacy, in FIFA, with exciting projects in Kosovo, Palestine, Cyprus… But Clermont was the best professional experience of my life. In collaboration with others, I was able to set up what I thought was a football club, with a horizontal mode of operation where the priority was the athlete, but not only. Clermont is now a club linked to its territory while the city is labeled rugby by ASM. We want to make Clermont Foot an entity that assumes its social and social responsibilities. We are working hard in collaboration with the neighborhoods around the Gabriel Montpied stadium to try to insert the club into the local social fabric. This corresponds to a philosophy that I defend. I should not have left Clermont.

Since when did the relationship with your president Ahmet Schaefer begin to deteriorate?
There are two important moments. First at the beginning of April, Ahmet Schaefer informed us that he wanted to change the recruitment unit in France, which nevertheless did a wonderful job with Philippe Vaugeois. Yannick Flavien and I oppose it. Then there is the transfer of Cédric Hountondji this summer. He was promised an exit voucher if there was an interesting offer. But not in Angers, not in a direct competitor if there are four descendants this season. Especially since the player is worth more than the two million for which he was sold. I would say that the strings are definitely loosening slowly. At the end of last season, we had a decisive sequence with Metz, Troyes and Montpellier at home later. We really needed to win to stay, but Schaefer didn’t come…

Did you have an explanation with your president before you left?

“What happened to me is mostly sad. This is the story of a startup with no money to begin with. But as it grows, questions of ego, authority and jealousy come up. It’s all a waste.”

We had a lot of discussions with Ahmet Schaefer, but what happened to me was pretty common. This is the story of a startup with no startup money. We are working to create a way of organization with a form of three-way collegiality with Yannick Flavien. An original system without a general manager or sports director, but the startup grew and from there arose questions of ego, authority and jealousy. Yannick Flavien and I are actually in Clermont. You have to be there all the time because the football club is not just about the results of the sport. We also need to change communication. I am proud of its originality because I built it. But all this is rubbish.

You also mentioned a bonus for promotion to Ligue 1 that was not paid. What is planned?
In one startup, the main collaborators are promised to be paid for the action if there is no money. That’s what Ahmet Schaefer did when he told us about the 5% climbing bonus for Yannick Flavien and myself. Promises are not kept. But that’s not a problem, at least not on my side. Maybe for Ahmet Schaefer it would be easier for me to leave to avoid giving me 5% because the club is worth more now than the purchase price in 2019, but that was not a financial conflict that caused me to leave. We tried to create an original and horizontal way of operation… We ended up going vertical.

In fact, you have repeated many times in the last three years that the traditional vertical operation often leads to internal fights. Looking back, do you still think your triumvirate was the best choice to lead a club?

“The horizontality is important because no one understands the complexity of the world of football on their own. I think the system we have set up is the right one.”

Horizontality is something important because no one understands alone the complexity of the football world. I think the system we have in place is the right one. We unite the city around football. One of the symbols of our success is the occupancy rate, the second in Ligue 1 behind PSG with more than 95%. Besides, the comments of the fans are the most revealing. They don’t understand why I was fired. In which club are the ultras defending a leader? For me, this is the best reward and it makes my heart feel better.

Has the relationship between coach Pascal Gastien and management been affected by your conflict?
Not really because we did everything to protect the group with Yannick Flavien. We were very close to the locker room. That is the difference between me and Ahmet. It reached him a little. When he got there, he arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon to play at 3 in the afternoon, he took pictures and if it was good, he went up to the table in the locker room to hand out the bonuses before disappearing. We were there all the time. However, I don’t hold a grudge against Ahmet. I know him for 16 years. Unfortunately, questions of ego and jealousy took over.

Is this the biggest disappointment of your professional life?
It’s not frustration, it’s sickness. FIFA is a professional disappointment (Jérôme Champagne ran for the presidency of the world body in 2014, editor’s note). I faced political obstacles. There, it’s not the same. Being a diplomat, I have visited 138 countries in my life but in three years, Clermont allowed me to discover about twenty French cities that I did not know. In Auvergne, I discovered charming and attractive people. You only have to look at what the supporters say about me: I am there, I came to say hello to them and I came to drink beer with them. This departure is a wrench, although in fact, I know it is a bit banal. In a startup, if success happens, you need to let go of a certain number of people. It doesn’t surprise me.

You say that Yannick Flavien generally has the same positions as you regarding Ahmet Schaefer’s decisions. How to explain that you are the only one pushed towards the exit?

“In the beginning, the president surrounded himself to benefit from different advice. But after a while, he decided to fire some people because he believed that he could do their job on his own.

In the trio, each of us has our expertise. Ahmet handles the marketing and TV rights, Yannick is the banker who takes care of the finances and I am more concerned with sports, politics and communication. At first, the president surrounded himself to benefit from various advice. But after a while, he decided to fire some people because he thought he could do their job himself. If Ahmet keeps Yannick Flavien, it’s also because he doesn’t master his area of ​​expertise. I also think Ahmet doesn’t like me being the face of Clermont Foot.

Now that your Clermont experience is over, would you invest in another club in the future?
I don’t think my Clermont Foot story is over yet. How? I can’t tell you. Many things happen in a club. As for thinking about another club, it’s obviously too early. I lost a child. I don’t know if I have anything else. I love Clermont very much and I think the recruitment has been done well. There is a desire to continue for the second time in a row, which will be historic. My story is sad but the important thing is that fully behind the group is the club of my heart.

Interview with Gabriel Joly

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