Fifa: Six facts about world football's governing body

Image caption,
Once Fifa was housed in a modest villa - today its base is a lavish HQ

Fifa started out as a tiny voluntary organisation, and grew and grew into a global behemoth with more member nations than the UN. Here are six unusual facts about the secretive organisation that governs world football.

1. It is a registered charity. Fifa pays little tax in its home country of Switzerland. It also requires tax exemption in countries wishing to host a World Cup competition. "Any host country requires a comprehensive tax exemption to be given to Fifa and further parties involved in the hosting and staging of an event," a Fifa spokesman told the BBC last year. The 2010 tournament - the most expensive yet - cost South Africa 33bn rand (£3bn; $4.86bn). But a "tax-free bubble" was established around the event at Fifa's request, relieving Fifa, its subsidiaries, and foreign football associations of any obligation to pay income tax, customs duties or VAT.

2. This charitable status dates from its early days as a tiny voluntary organisation run on goodwill from a suburban villa in Zurich, says David Goldblatt, author of The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football.

Image caption,
Gaining advertising rights in Argentina - then a military dictatorship - required fancy footwork

3. Broadcast rights to the first televised World Cup - the 1954 tournament hosted by Switzerland and won by West Germany - were given away for nothing. With a global TV audience numbering many millions, Fifa realised this was a goldmine. By 1986, TV rights sold for 49m Swiss francs (£35m) - a fraction of the $2.4bn in broadcast earnings for the period of the last World Cup (see graphic below).

4. Fifa set the template for modern sports sponsorship after an awkward scramble to secure advertising rights for its new partner, Coca-Cola, at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. A military coup two years earlier threw up a dilemma for the organisers, says sports marketing expert Patrick Nally. With no control over the stadia, and no advertising agreements in place, how could Fifa ensure the soft drinks giant had a presence in such a strictly controlled country? It came down to money. Fifa asked Coca-Cola to advance it an extra 12m to 15m Swiss francs to buy these rights from Argentina, so it could then offer the company an exclusive relationship at its own event.

5. Globalisation of the game came under Joao Havelange, Fifa's seventh president and Sepp Blatter's predecessor. Spain expected to host 16 nations when it bid for the 1982 tournament; Fifa later told it this would be rounded up to 24, as Mr Havelange made good on his election promises to bolster training and opportunities for teams from Asia and Africa. To subsidise this, Fifa again went cap-in-hand to Coca-Cola for an extra $40m in sponsorship. The only way to make this worthwhile was to guarantee its sponsors wide-ranging benefits from exclusive signage, licensing and merchandising. "And with that, the package of exclusivity and global coverage that defines modern sports sponsorship was born," says Goldblatt, presenter of the BBC Radio 4 documentary Fifa: Football, Power and Politics.

6. Today Fifa has more member countries than the United Nations - 208 to the UN's 192. Only eight internationally recognised countries are not Fifa affiliates, including Vatican City, Kiribati and Monaco. It is a far cry from its beginnings in 1904, when the representatives of seven European football associations banded together with the aim of improving football's global reach.

Fifa: Football, Power and Politics was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 29 May - catch up on iPlayer.

Compiled by Megan Lane and John Walton

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