Jack Warner, of Trinidad and Tobago, is among those indicted.

Photographer: Shaun Botterill/FIFA

FIFA's Formula for Trouble

Mark Whitehouse writes editorials on global economics and finance for Bloomberg View. He covered economics for the Wall Street Journal and served as deputy bureau chief in London. He was previously the founding managing editor of Vedomosti, a Russian-language business daily.
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Among the lessons to be learned from the latest scandal engulfing FIFA, soccer's ruling body: If you give officials from small countries with corrupt governments outsize power in deciding who will host the World Cup, you're asking for trouble.

Official and journalistic investigations of FIFA have focused in large part on the selection of World Cup hosts, including the 2010 meeting where the organization's 24-member executive committee chose Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. Each country or territory represented on the committee had an equal vote -- a power that in many cases far exceeded other measures of their global significance. Here are the 10 members with the greatest voting power relative to their 2010 share of the world's economic output:

And here are the 10 with the smallest influence relative to their economic size:

This arrangement has benefited longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who has gained the support of smaller countries by railing against the soccer "imperialism" of larger Western nations. It has also made the voting susceptible to corruption: Of the 10 countries and territories on the 2010 executive committee with the highest voting-power-to-GDP ratios, six ranked in the bottom half of Transparency International's corruption perceptions index that year. And six have had officials implicated in FIFA vote-buying scandals.

Since 2010, FIFA has changed the rules for selecting World Cup hosts, requiring them to win over a majority of the organization's entire 209-member Congress -- a procedure similar to that of the International Olympic Committee (which has had its own issues with vote-buying). It remains to be seen whether broadening the vote will inhibit bribery or merely expand the potential market.

The host selection for the 2026 World Cup is scheduled for May 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It will be a process worth watching.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Mark Whitehouse at mwhitehouse1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Christopher Flavelle at cflavelle@bloomberg.net