Football: World Cup, financial scandal… Five things to know about the all-powerful Fifa

The Italian-Swiss Gianni Infantino was re-elected as FIFA president, a position he has held since 2016, without competition and by acclamation during the 73e congress of the authority, in Kigali, Thursday, March 16. He will lead until 2027 an all-powerful organization founded in 1904, which has more members than the UN.

► An association founded in 1904

Fifa was founded in 1904 in Paris, in the very opulent rue Saint-Honoré. Its founding members are the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain and France. These federations were joined a year later by Germany, Italy, Austria and Hungary, then by the United Kingdom a few months later.

► 211 national federations

Fifa brings together 211 federations, more than the number of member states of the United Nations, which are only 193! These federations may or may not be national: the United Kingdom, for example, has several members, such as England and Scotland.

For a time, entities such as the Faroe Islands, which are part of Denmark, were able to join the organization. Worried about the political risks that this mode of operation posed to nations (in Spain, with Catalonia, or in Canada, with Quebec), Fifa put an end to it.

Henceforth, political independence is a prerequisite for membership. This decision, which is not retroactive, however allows Northern Ireland or Tahiti to remain a member of Fifa. The last member to join the organization is Kosovo, which became independent from Serbia in 2016. At the same time, ten sovereign states are not members of Fifa, including the United Kingdom, Monaco or… the Vatican.

► The management of the World Cup, the most prestigious competition on the planet

The World Cup is FIFA’s major competition. Founded in 1928 by Jules Rimet, the first edition was organized in 1930 and saw Uruguay, already Olympic champion in 1924 and 1928, win.

This competition is now the most watched sporting event in the world, along with the Olympic Games and the Cricket World Cup. In total, only eight nations have won the title and Brazil holds the record, with five victories. Brazilian striker Pelé is also the only player to have won the Cup three times.

Fifa also takes care of the organization of the Women’s Football World Cup.

► Confederations in the federation

The federations are grouped within FIFA into confederations: the AFC for Asia and Oceania, the CAF for Africa, the Conmebol for South America, the Concacaf for North America, the America and the Caribbean and UEFA for Europe.

There is no hierarchy between Fifa and its confederations: when decisions relate to the continent, the confederations are masters. For example, they are the ones who manage the World Cup qualifiers.

On the other hand, Fifa is inflexible as to the rules of the game, imposed by the center on the continental confederations. However, the organization is not alone in enacting them: it has four votes in a body which also brings together England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which count for one vote each.

► A financial scandal in 2015

In 2015, FIFA was hit by a resounding scandal: seven senior officials were arrested in Zurich for “presumed acts of racketeering, money laundering and corruption in particular in the context of the awarding of several world cups or marketing contracts”according to the FBI.

Loretta Lynch, prosecutor in New York, mentioned at least 150 million dollars in bribes, or more than 140 million euros. Fourteen people have been charged in all.

One branch of the case had notably implicated Michel Platini, president of UEFA, and Sepp Blatter, his counterpart from Fifa. Both were finally cleared by Swiss justice last July.


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