PtG Article 11.01.2019

New mapping of national football federations shows more differences than similarities

A report from CIES Sports Intelligence, comparing the governance structures of national football federations across 20 countries, shows large differences, but also a general lack of female representation in the ExCos.

A new mapping of governance structures in 20 national football associations (FA) across all five FIFA confederations allows for a practical comparison of various ways of structuring FAs. The results demonstrate that there are large differences in the way the FA general assemblies are put together in terms of stakeholder representation and that also electoral procedures differ significantly.

The study, carried out by The CIES Sports Intelligence, a research and analysis centre based at the University of Neuchatel, identifies five main areas to examine (General Assembly, Executive Committee, President, judicial bodies and reporting activities) and the findings have been standardised allowing for a comparison.

There are few trends to draw from comparing the stakeholder representation in the general assemblies of the 20 FAs. In general, players have very little influence on the decision-making processes, the report finds. Italy, Spain and the US, however, stand out from this tendency with athletes being entitled to 20% of the votes. The research also shows that women’s football is scarcely represented in a majority of the FAs.

The size of the surveyed FAs’ general assemblies vary considerably from the US FA having 572 voting delegates, which is more than twice as much as Italy that comes in second when it comes to number of voting members. Smallest general assembly is that of the New Zealand FA, which has 28 voting members. Also the FAs’ Executive Committees vary a lot in size across the surveyed countries (from 5 to 35).

In the vast majority of the FAs, the president is elected by the general assembly. All FAs surveyed have fixed durations of presidential cycles, and the norm here is four-year cycles. 12 of the 20 FAs examined do not have term limits in place, while six of the 20 have age limits in place. The average FA president is a 58 year-old male and more than half of the current presidents have taken the seat within the past three years. The report also points to the fact that many of the presidents have a background from outside of football thus possibly expanding the corporate experiences in the football business. When it comes to the way the judicial body of the FAs are set up, the report also reveals a wide variation. Less than half the surveyed countries adopt the same structure as FIFA with a disciplinary, an ethics, and an appeal committee. Another examples of a judicial structure includes having one body dealing with both disciplinary and ethics cases. There are also variations in the way the members of the judicial commissions are elected. Across all 20 nations, the FAs are quite good at publishing their statutes (19/20), financial statements (14/20), and judicial bodies’ decisions (17/20).

The report concludes that while there are a few general tendencies such as a positive level of reporting on statutes, financial statements and important decisions and an overall lack of female representation, the mapping reveals a wide variety in the composition of decision making boards and in the stakeholder representation across the international football landscape.

The authors see this a sign that the football landscape is constantly evolving and with further reforms expected to be implemented in many of the FAs in the near future, the governance structures change almost continuously.

“Football is not a static concept… Governance is a topic that is currently in the spotlight of football discussions globally, as stakeholders increasingly demand for better management of the game,” the report says.

The findings at large correspond well with the recently published reports from Play the Game, the National Sports Governance Observer and the Sports Governance Observer, that map the level of governance in national and international sports organisations, respectively. Among the main results drawn from the two reports were that transparency and reporting is an area in which sports organisations score reasonably well, while scores on democratic processes, including diversity on boards and stakeholder representation, were less good.

Further reading:

Download the CIES report ‘Governance structures at national association level 2018

Read more about the two Sports Governance Observer reports here: