FIFA’s 209 members are expected to elect President Sepp Blatter to a fifth term Friday, based on statements in recent months issued by continental confederations, despite a string of scandals including the indictment of nine soccer officials this week by the U.S. government.
How does Blatter have such loyalty? Thanks to the vast increase in television rights fees during his 17 years heading the organization, Blatter has redistributed billions back to national governing bodies and regional confederations.
In addition to influxes of cash for their soccer programs, officials from even the smallest territories have been able to attend FIFA events, stay at the world’s finest hotels, eat in top restaurants, all while receiving large per diems. They also get to compete to stage dozens of global and regional tournaments.
FIFA reported revenue for the 2011-14 cycle of $5.72 billion, and it distributed $1.05 billion for development. FIFA said its Goal Programme funded 200 projects worth at least $500,000 each during the period.
That money has made many FIFA officials intensely loyal to Blatter.
A look at the regions and the voting blocs in Friday’s balloting between Blatter and Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Hussein:
Nations vote by secret paper ballot. A two-thirds majority is necessary on the first ballot, and a simple majority on the second.
EUROPE — 53 VOTES
While Europe has the world’s wealthiest leagues and clubs, it has not held FIFA’s top spot since 1974, when Brazil’s Joao Havelange ousted England’s Stanley Rous 68-52. Havelange held office for 24 years.
Blatter, a 79-year-old Swiss native who had been Havelange’s top aide, defeated Sweden’s Lennart Johansson, then the president of UEFA, 111-80 on the first ballot in 1998. There were accusations even before the election that Blatter’s associates were buying votes.
A majority of the Union of European Football Associations is expected to back Ali — UEFA president Michel Platini estimates at least 45.
A former French national team captain, Platini replaced Johansson as UEFA president in 2007 and has been viewed as a possible Blatter successor. Platini opposed Blatter but announced last August that he declined to run against him, saying “now is not my time, not yet.” He met with Blatter on Thursday and urged him to resign.
NORTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN — 35 VOTES
Long considered a soccer backwater, CONCACAF gained influence during the presidency of Trinidad and Tobago’s Jack Warner, who was among those indicted this week. The 1994 World Cup in the U.S. boosted media and corporate attention, but leagues in Mexico and the U.S. trail European counterparts in revenue.
Sunil Gulati, the U.S. Soccer Federation president in 2006, won North America’s spot on FIFA’s executive committee two years ago in an 18-17 vote over Mexico’s Justino Compean and is viewed as a reformer. But Gulati has cautioned that views differ around the world as to what constitutes necessary reform.
Gulati says the U.S. and Canada will vote for Prince Ali, but most of CONCACAF is expected to support Blatter. At a CONCACAF meeting last month, Dominican Football Federation President Osiris Guzman compared Blatter to Moses, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jesus and Nelson Mandela.
AFRICA — 54 VOTES
Blatter has had strong backing voiced in Africa, where few nations have powerful leagues. The Confederation of African Football issued a statement Thursday reiterating its support for Blatter.
When CAF President Issa Hayatou of Cameroon ran against Blatter in 2002, he lost 139-56.
ASIA — 46 VOTES
Prince Ali may be from Asia, but that doesn’t mean he will have great support from his own federation, which issued a statement Thursday backing Blatter.
Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Confederation from 2002-11, ran against Blatter four years ago, then withdrew after accusations he helped arrange bribes to Caribbean voters.
Football Federation Australia Chairman Frank Lowy said in a statement he planned to vote for Prince Ali. “FFA believes that profound change within FIFA is needed,” he said.
SOUTH AMERICA — 10 VOTES
The continent’s soccer is dominated by Brazil and Argentina, and the confederation is expected to support Blatter. With only 10 votes, South America has the fewest of any confederation. It has far greater influence on FIFA’s executive committee, where it has three of 25 votes.
OCEANIA — 11 VOTES
A small and relatively weak confederation became smaller and weaker when Australia left in 2006 and joined the AFC, leaving the remaining small nations loyal to Blatter and the development money whose distribution he has led.
A statement in January said all 11 nations planned to vote for Blatter.
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