Soccer is one of the most attractive sports in the world. Hundreds of millions or even billions watch matches on a regular basis. As a result, the game has become a multi-billion dollar industry.
The money generated from sponsors, tickets, and merchandise is simply insane, and is growing every year.
Under such circumstances, it’s kind of important who makes the decisions when it comes to soccer.
This is the point of this article.
We will take a deeper look at the most powerful government bodies of soccer, including their structure and history.
It’s only natural to start this list with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or simply FIFA. This is the largest soccer organization in the world, and it controls some of the most prestigious international tournaments.
Simply put, FIFA is the federation of national soccer associations from all over the globe.
It was founded in 1904 and currently has more than 200 members worldwide, divided into 6 confederations. The headquarters of the organization are in Zurich, Switzerland.
On top of the whole structure is the FIFA president. There is also a senior vice president, a secretary general, and another 7 vice presidents.
They are all elected by the most important body of FIFA – the Congress. It consists of members of each of the associations that are part of the organization. Among the major functions of the FIFA Congress are confirming the annual budget and accepting new members.
The most important part of the Congress is the Executive Committee. It’s led by the FIFA president. Other members include the 8 vice presidents, 15 regular members, and 1 female member.
The total number of participants is 25, and they make crucial decisions such as which nation will host the next World Cup.
Other organs of FIFA include a bunch of committees responsible for various aspects such as finance, fair play, ethics, rules, and referees.
Tournaments and Awards
FIFA is solely responsible for the organization of the most recognized international tournament in soccer – the World Cup. The competition is held once every 4 years, and the host country of the final stage is elected by the Executive Committee of FIFA.
There are many other tournaments organized by FIFA, and one that attracts some attention is the Confederations Cup. It’s considered as something like a general rehearsal for the World Cup.
Another important competition is the FIFA Club World Cup. It gathers the best club teams from all over the globe each year. Other regular tournaments are the Women’s World Cup and many competitions for kids and youngsters.
When it comes to individual awards, the FIFA Ballon d’Or is given annually to the best player in the world. The governing body is also behind a couple of other awards such as the World Player of the Year which is given to the best female player, the Puskas award for the best goal, and more.
During the years, FIFA has been shaken by various allegations of corruption, unfair practices, and other violations. Here are some of the most controversial moments of the organization:
Corruption Scandals: various members, vice presidents, and even presidents of FIFA have been involved in corruption controversies in the past. The most notable figure among them is long-time president Sepp Blat who was thrown out in 2015.
DOJ Indictments: the US Department of Justice indicted more than 20 FIFA officials because of money laundering, bribes, and fraud in 2015.
World Cup 2018 and 2022: according to various members of FIFA, journalists, and other people from the soccer community, the World Cups in Russia and Qatar are a direct result of bribery and improper conduct.
Despite the scandals, FIFA is still going strong and firmly in charge of some of the most important soccer decisions.
Next in line are the 6 confederations that are part of FIFA. Each of them is responsible for soccer in a certain part of the world:
UEFA (55 members)
The Union of European Football Associations or UEFA is the second most powerful governing body in the world. It is one of the 6 FIFA confederations, and it is responsible for the European region. Still, UEFA has a couple of members located in Asia.
It has a structure similar to FIFA’s order. The main organ is the UEFA Congress which consists of representatives of each national association that is a member of UEFA.
The Congress is responsible for electing the president of the organization, as well as picking the host for the European Championship. It also votes on most of the important decisions to the development of soccer on the continent, such as new rules and referee guidelines.
One of the main reasons UEFA is the most powerful confederation out there is the club competitions organized by the body. The Champions League and even Europa League are a large financial success and generate billions each year.
UEFA also has a couple of stains on its reputation, but they can’t be compared to the scandals related to FIFA.
CONMEBOL (10 members)
The Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol or CONMEBOL was founded in 1916, which makes it the oldest continental soccer confederation in the world. It has 10 members, and the headquarters are in Luque, Paraguay.
It is the smallest member of FIFA with only 10 representatives. Yet, CONMEBOL includes some of the powerhouses in soccer such as Brazil and Argentina. The former is the most successful nation in the World Cup history with 5 trophies.
The main competitions run by CONMEBOL are the Copa America and Copa Libertadores. They are the most prestigious international and club tournaments in the region. The organization is also responsible for many competitions for youngsters and women.
CONMEBOL was hit by controversy in 2015. First, several members were arrested in Switzerland by the local authorities and charged by the US DOJ for corruption and money laundering. By the end of the year, the president of the confederation Juan Angel Napout was also arrested.
CAF (56 members)
The largest FIFA member is the Confederation of African Football. CAF includes as many as 56 local associations. It was founded in 1957, and the current headquarters are located in Cairo, Egypt.
Because of the large number of members, CAF has a couple of regional federations for North, West, Central, East, and Southern Africa. Each of them is part of the bigger organization, but also responsible for the local associations.
The biggest international tournament held by CAF is the Africa Cup of Nations. It is played every 2 years, and the confederation picks the hosts, appoints referees, and finds sponsors for the event. There are similar tournaments for women, youngsters, and kids.
CAF is also the body behind the most prestigious international club competitions in Africa. The most popular among them is the CAF Champions League. The others are called CAF Confederation Cup and CAF Super Cup. They are similar to the European club competitions.
AFC (47 members)
The Asian Football Confederation is the governing body of the most populated continent of the world. It’s curious that Australia also became part of AFC in 2006 and plays in the events organized by the governing body.
At the same time, all countries that have territory in both Europe and Asia are not part of AFC. The likes of Russia, Turkey, Georgia, and others are members of UEFA.
AFC was established in 1954, and the headquarters of the organization are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It has split the Asian continent into 5 major regions governed by a local federation: West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and ASEAN.
The main competitions in the continents are all run by the AFC. The list includes the AFC Champions League, the AFC Cup, and the AFC Asian Cup, which is a tournament between the members of the confederation.
CONCACAF (41 members)
You will quickly understand which regions are under the regulation of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football by the name of the organization.
CONCACAF is one of the most recently created confederations, as its history starts in 1961. The institution initially included just a fraction of the members it has today, but a couple of mergers led to the current situation.
The main tournaments related to CONCACAF are the Gold Cup and the Champions League. It’s interesting that some members of the association actually play in the Copa America, namely the USA, Costa Rica, and Mexico. The main reason behind that is the low competition in the CONCACAF region.
The organization was involved in a lot of controversy in the past, including allegations of tax evasion, money laundering, and corruption. In fact, almost 10 former members of CONCACAF have been indicted through the years.
OFC (11 members)
The Oceania Football Confederation is the last member of FIFA. The organization includes mostly Pacific Island countries such as New Zealand and Fiji. Australia used to be a member, but decided to join the Asian Football Confederation in 2006.
The main goal is to promote soccer in this region of the world. One of the means is that one member of the OFC can actually qualify for the FIFA World Cup. In fact, New Zealand did reach the finals of the competition in 2010.
The competitions organized by OFC include the Champions League, the Nations Cup, and a lot of other tournaments for women and youngsters. Ever since Australia left OFC, New Zealand has been dominating most of them.
Other Governing Bodies
These are the governing bodies that pretty much determine the faith of soccer around the globe. Of course, if we break them down even more, we will find there are over 200 associations.
They are local governing bodies that organize the tournaments in each country and have the say on large events by being a member of FIFA and their continental confederation.