FIFA has 208 member associations, which is 16 more than the United Nations and 3 more than the International Olympic Committee, though 5 fewer than the International Association of Athletics Federations.
FIFA presided over its first international competition in 1906, but this met with little approval or success. This, in combination with economic factors, led to the swift replacement of Guérin with Daniel Burley Woolfall from England, by now a member association. The next tournament staged, the football competition for the 1908 Olympics in London was more successful, despite the presence of professional footballers, contrary to the founding principles of FIFA.
FIFA, however, floundered during World War I, with many players sent off to war and the possibility of travel for international fixtures severely limited. Post-war, following the death of Woolfall, the organisation was run by Dutchman Carl Hirschmann. It was saved from extinction, but at the cost of the withdrawal of the Home Nations (of the United Kingdom), who cited an unwillingness to participate in international competitions with their recent World War enemies. The Home Nations later resumed their membership.
FIFA is an association established under the Laws of Switzerland. Its headquarters are in Zurich.
FIFA's supreme body is the FIFA Congress, an assembly made up of a representative from each affiliated national federation. The Congress assembles in ordinary session now once every year, and extraordinary sessions have been held once a year since 1998 & now as and when requested. Only the Congress can pass changes to FIFA's by-laws.
Congress elects the President of FIFA, its secretary-general and the other members of FIFA's Executive Committee. The President and secretary-general are the main officeholders of FIFA, and are in charge of its daily administration, carried out by the General Secretariat, with its staff of approximately 280 members.
FIFA's Executive Committee, chaired by the President, is the main decision making body of the organization in the intervals of Congress. FIFA's worldwide organizational structure also consists of several other bodies, under authority of the Executive Committee or created by Congress as Standing Committees. Among those bodies are the Finance Committee, the Disciplinary Committee, the Referee's Committee, etc.
Aside from its worldwide institutions (presidency, Executive Board, Congress, etc.) FIFA has created confederations which oversee the game in the different continents and regions of the world. National federations, and not the continental Confederations, are members of FIFA. The continental Confederations are provided for in FIFA's by-laws. National federations must claim membership to both FIFA and the confederation in which their nation is geographically resident for their teams to qualify for entry to FIFA's competitions (with a few geographic exceptions listed below):
Nations straddling the traditional boundary between Europe and Asia have generally had their choice of confederation. As a result, a number of transcontinental nations including Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have chosen to become part of UEFA despite the bulk of their land area being in Asia. Israel, although lying entirely within Asia, joined UEFA in 1994, after decades of its football teams being boycotted by many Arab and predominantly Muslim AFC countries. Kazakhstan moved from AFC to UEFA in 2002. Australia was the latest to move from OFC to AFC in January 2006.
No team from the OFC is offered automatic qualification to the World Cup. In recent World Cup qualifying cycles, the winner of their section had to play a play-off against a CONMEBOL side, a hurdle at which Australia have traditionally fallen. In an effort to improve their national and domestic teams Australia moved to the Asian Federation 2006. This allows Australia to play in Asian tournaments of a much higher standard (as well as being more numerous) such as the AFC Asian Cup and the Asian Champions League.
Australia successfully qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup by winning just such a playoff in a penalty shootout against Uruguay, just a few months after the clearance to move was granted. Initially, the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification cycle was planned to provide the winner of OFC qualifying with a place in the final AFC qualification group, but this was scrapped in favour of a playoff between the OFC winner and an AFC team for a World Cup place.
In total, FIFA recognises 208 national federations and their associated men's national teams as well as 129 women's national teams; see the list of national football teams and their respective country codes. Curiously, FIFA has more member states than the United Nations, as FIFA recognises several non-sovereign entities as distinct nations, most notably the four Home Nations within the United Kingdom. The FIFA World Rankings are updated monthly and rank each team based on their performance in international competitions, qualifiers, and friendly matches. There is also a world ranking for women's football, updated four times a year.
FIFA awards, each year, the title of FIFA World Player of the Year to the most prestigious player of the year, as part of its annual awards ceremony which also recognises team and international football achievements.
A recent high-profile suspension was of the Greek Football Federation for political interference. Another recent suspension was on the Kenya Football Federation because it was not running the game in Kenya properly and also of Iraq.
The Asia wing of FIFA, the AFC is soon to force 22 leading associations in Asia to increase transparency, competition, quality training and a proper league structure with relegation, promotion and a 2nd division. Suspension will be imposed on any associate which doesn't co-operate with the reform outlines. Notably, one of the associations being targeted is that of Australia, a country whose professional sport leagues are all organised on the model of franchised teams and closed league membership, a system most commonly identified with North America.
A 2007 FIFA ruling that a player can be registered with a maximum of three clubs, and appear in official matches for a maximum of three, in a year measured from 1 July to 30 June has lead to controversy, especially in those countries whose seasons cross that date barrier, as in the case of two former Ireland internationals.
The Iraq national team was suspended in May 2008, due to government interference with independent national sports authorities. However the decision was overturned by FIFA on May 29, 2008, since the Iraqi government reversed its earlier decision in dissolving the Iraq Football Association.
FIFA attempted to address the issue of extreme altitude in May 2007, ruling that no future international matches could be played at an altitude over 2500 m (8200 ft).
The FIFA altitude ban would most notably have affected the national teams of Andean countries. Under this proposal, Bolivia would no longer be able to play international matches in La Paz (3,600 m), Ecuador would be unable to play in Quito (2,800 m), and Colombia could no longer play in Bogotá (2,640 m).
However, FIFA soon backed away from the proposal after international condemnation, and under political pressure from the CONMEBOL countries, first extending the maximum altitude to 2,800 m (9,190 ft) in June 2007, which made Bogotá and Quito viable international venues once again, and then waiving the restriction for La Paz in July 2007.
The ban was reintroduced in December 2007 by FIFA for matches 2,750 metres above sea level, unless players were allowed to acclimatize. However, the ban was again suspended by FIFA in May 2008.
Nearly simultaneous with the release of Foul was a BBC television expose by Jennings and BBC producer Roger Corke for the BBC news programme Panorama. In this hour-long programme screened on June 11, 2006, Jennings and the Panorama team submit that Sepp Blatter is being investigated by Swiss police over his role in a secret deal to repay more than £1m worth of bribes pocketed by football officials.
All testimonies offered in the Panorama expose were provided through a disguised voice, appearance, or both, save one; Mel Brennan, formerly a lecturer at Towson University in the United States (and from 2001-2003 Head of Special Projects for CONCACAF, a liaison to the e-FIFA project and a FIFA World Cup delegate), became the first high-level football insider to go public with substantial allegations of greed, corruption, nonfeasance and malfeasance by CONCACAF and FIFA leadership. During the Panorama expose, Brennan - the highest-level African-American in the history of world football - Jennings and many others exposed allegedly inappropriate allocations of money at CONCACAF, and drew connections between ostensible CONCACAF criminality and similar behaviours at FIFA. Brennan's book, The Apprentice: Tragicomic Times Among the Men Running - and Ruining - World Football is due out in late 2008 or early 2009.