FIFA’s power base shifted silently but decisively south and east this week

For many the only good to come out of this week’s train wreck of a FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland was the announcement that in future the Congress itself and not the FIFA Executive Committee would be responsible for selecting future World Cup tournament hosts.

The ExCo has been beseiged by allegations of corruption that FIFA has now displayed some interest in tackling (disclaimer: if you are standing against Sepp Blatter in a Presidential Election or a Vice President supporting someone who is doing so). But why did Blatter allow the FIFA Congress to choose the World Cup hosts rather than remove the “few bad apples” that they insist are to blame?

It’s all about geo-sporting politics.

Before the allegations against Bin Hamman and Warner broke, seasoned FIFA watchers had this race as too close to call, The Guardian even said that it felt Bin Hamman might be ahead by one vote 104-103. This is because when FIFA votes for its President each member has an equal say- the Cayman Islands FA has as much influence as the Chinese FA.

Pretty much all of Bin Hamman’s support was coming from his native Asian Football Confederation and the African Federation (CAF), these are two powerful blocs of support in a Presidential election and account for 97 of a possible 208 votes, almost enough to win if a candidate sweeps them both.

Fuelling the dissatisfaction of the AFC and CAF members is the allocation of World Cup places, in 2014 the 10 members of CONMEBOL (South America) will have 5.5 World Cup places between 10 national associations while the AFC has 4.5 places shared between its 46 members and CAF has 5 spoils to go around 53 tables.

Agreeing to select the World Cup hosts via the same system as the President is a massive win for Africa and Asia, who then dutifully swung their previously reticent support behind Herr Blatter, even to the point of blocking the FAs call for delaying the election to allow for a contest.

Currently, the ExCo has 24 members (including the provisionally suspended Bin Hammam and Warner) with 9 members coming from UEFA, 4 each from CAF and the AFC, 3 each from CONMEBOL and CONCACAF and 1 from Oceania.

The voting weight of each confederation for World Cup selection in the ExCo was consequently

AFC – 16.6%

CAF – 16.6%

CONCACAF – 12.5%

CONMEBOL – 12.5%

Oceania – 4.2%

UEFA – 37.5%

Now, the voting process for the World Cup will be weighted as such.

AFC – 22.1% (46 nations)

CAF – 25.5% (53 nations)

CONCACAF – 16.8% (35 nations)

CONMEBOL – 4.8% (10 nations)

Oceania – 5.3% (11 nations)

UEFA – 25.5% (53 nations)

Ouch, if you are European or South American – their influence has been curtailed at the expense of currying favour with emerging football powers. The epicentre of world football may still be Zurich, but it’s facing more easterly and more southerly than it has done perhaps at any stage in its history.

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