Magazine article New African

What a Grotesque System! Did You Know That World Football Can Have No New Rules without England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Saying So? Even FIFA, World Football's Governing Body, Can Do Nothing about It. but Why Should the Modern World of Football Allow This Grotesque System to Continue, Asks Ricardo Guerra

Magazine article New African

What a Grotesque System! Did You Know That World Football Can Have No New Rules without England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Saying So? Even FIFA, World Football's Governing Body, Can Do Nothing about It. but Why Should the Modern World of Football Allow This Grotesque System to Continue, Asks Ricardo Guerra

Article excerpt

AFTER YEARS OF DELIBERAtions and resisting the use of any sort of technology to officiate football matches, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the preeminent lawmaking body of the game, recently approved new systems to help determine if a ball crosses the goal line. Many have received this news with surprise. But both IFAB and FIFA (world football's governing body) have been slow to adapt and institute much-needed changes within the game.

Football has changed dramatically over the last decades, as evidenced by the higher physiological capacity of the players. Unfortunately, the rules of the game have not evolved alongside these physiological changes. Even worse is the sclerotic system that is responsible for changing the rules of the sport. IFAB and FIFA work symbiotically. They are intertwined and have been sharing power with different arrangements for almost 100 years.

IFAB, founded in 1886, is the game's lawmaking body, composed of representatives from each of the UK's pioneering football associations--England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland--and FIFA. The make-up of IFAB is heavily criticised by many because its representation is limited to a handful of countries.

Deliberations within the organisation must be approved by at least six votes. Basically, FIFA has four votes on behalf of all its 209 affiliated member associations. The other four privileged football associations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each have one vote. We could say FIFA is complicit in the current arrangement. I doubt the ordinary fan is even aware of the existence of IFAB. Even fewer people know exactly who FIFA's votes within the IFAB-FIFA nexus represent. It really is just a power grab for the FIFA chiefs and their cronies, and it is a true reflection of the arrogance, lack of accountability and transparency, and undemocratic tendencies that surround the governing body of the most important game in the world.

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One way to illustrate the magnitude of the unrepresentative nature of IFAB is to briefly compare its structure with that of the UN Security Council, which diplomats and scholars all over the world deem to be a model of poor representation. The Security Council has a total of 15 members. Of those, five - China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US - are permanent members with the power to veto any proposal decided by the nine votes that are needed.

The other elected lip non-permanent members of the Security Council have two-year terms. The UN has a total of 193 members, which raises the question: "How is it possible that five countries have so much clout and power in the realm of international relations?" If you think representation in the Security Council is unjust and flawed, wait until you hear this: FIFA, with a total of 209 members, has more affiliations than the UN. Nevertheless, the four countries within IFAB essentially decide, for all the other 205 members behind closed doors with the top officials of FIFA, what changes are going to be made in the game.

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At least defenders of the Security Council's structure can justify its current make-up by pointing to the hard power of the elite five. But what kind of justification is possible for IFAB's current structure? What kind of on-field football power do England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland exert in international football? At any given time, England can barely qualify for the World Cup, and they last won it almost 5o years ago. In juxtaposition, Brazil, which has a record five World Cup titles, is not a member of IFAB and therefore is excluded from the decisionmaking process.

Other football behemoths like Italy, France, Argentina and Germany also have no say in the direct decision-making process involving potential changes to the game's laws. I would bet money that if Brazil, Italy, France, Argentina and Germany got together and decided to boycott FIFA, unless they were given representation within IFAB, they would bring the whole system to its knees! …

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