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2023 World Cup: How FIFA’s council members will likely vote and why

If he is true to his ethos, Australia and New Zealand have every right to feel confident of receiving his vote having been evaluated as the strongest bid by FIFA’s technical committee.
Predicted vote in favour of Australia and New Zealand: 1/1.

FIFA General Secretary, Fatma Samoura.

FIFA’s general secretary is firmly part of the Infantion’s mission for “FIFA 2.0”, providing more transparancy and accountability. This week, Samoura stood by the organsiation’s technical evaluation of the Women’s World Cup bids after FIFA was criticised by Colombia and CONMEBOL for the low score given to the Colombian bid of 2.8/5 while the trans-Tasman bid scored 4.1/5. She has strongly backed the bid process thus far, and could finish it with a vote for Australia and New Zealand.

Predicted vote in favour: 1/1.

AFC, Asia

Key support: The influential Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain is backing Australia and New Zealand.

Key support: The influential Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain is backing Australia and New Zealand. Credit:AP

The withdrawal of Japan’s bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup prompted Asia to throw its support behind Australia and New Zealand. After the ASEAN Football Federation backed the trans-Tasman bid, the Asian Football Confederation’s highly influential president, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain, voiced his support through the AFC’s media channels. It effectively ensures Australia and New Zealand of all seven votes from Asia while also making his ambitions known to his supporters in other regions.

Predicted votes in favour: 7/7

CAF, Africa

According to a FIFA source, CAF rarely swims against the tide of FIFA. That’s not to say that will definitely be the case on Friday morning but the form guide makes for good reading for the trans-Tasman bid. Not only have FIFA’s technocrats evaluated Australia and New Zealand as the strongest bid but senior figures have come out in support of it.

Most notably, Sheikh Salman who wields significant influence in Africa. The continent was arguably his strongest supporter base in the 2016 FIFA presidential election. It could be influenced by his public backing of the trans-Tasman bid.
Predicted votes in favour: 7/7

UEFA, Europe

Europe remains the great unknown leading into Friday’s vote, making the game’s most powerful continent the potential kingmaker. UEFA is a longstanding antagonist of FIFA, clashing over power, control and finances. The two organisations are in the midst of a feud over a FIFA plan to expand the Club World Cup to 24 teams, which could challenge UEFA’s Champions League. Friction over club versus country is also an ever-present wedge.

UEFA is the confederation least likely to toe the FIFA line and is also potentially the least likely to vote as a bloc, according to bid sources. The trans-Tasman bid should be confident of being supported by the FIFA council members of more established women’s football countries – such as Italy, France and England – due to the strength of the bid.

Beyond that, the situation becomes murky and votes could be influenced by football politics and geopolitical ties.

Compounding the uncertainty is the strong relationship between UEFA and CONMEBOL. Europe and South America’s status as the heavyweights of world football have made them political allies, which could aid Colombia’s cause.
Predicted votes in favour: 3/9

CONCACAF, North and Central America

The neutral territory of the Caribbean, North and Central America is another key battle ground. The confederation’s strong historical and political links with South America could aid Colombia’s cause. Support from FIFA members in Panama and Cuba are likely, while the TV-friendly timezones will tempt the USA and Canada. However, bid sources believe CONCACAF won’t necessarily vote as a bloc.

One of the key reasons for this is Australia’s strong relationship with Canada and the USA, in particular with women’s football. The W-League and the NASL have a strategic alliance while the Matildas are regular invitees at USA’s Tournament of Nations competition. Australian Moya Dodd, a former FFA director and ex-FIFA Council member, was the chair of the taskforce for the 2015 Women’s World Cup hosted by Canada. Those links are why the trans-Tasman bid is confident it can break up votes from CONCACAF.
Predicted votes in favour: 2/5

CONMEBOL, South America

South America made its position clear with an angry letter to FIFA condemning the low evaluation of Colombia’s bid, seeking to discredit the organisation’s technical committee. It was a puzzling strategy, given the potential for alienating FIFA’s allies but could garner support from opponents of the governing body, namely UEFA. What is certain is it presented unanimous support for Colombia before Friday’s vote.
Predicted votes in favour: 0/4

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OFC, Oceania

The smallest confederation was the first to back Australia and New Zealand’s bid. That is of no surprise considering New Zealand is a member of the OFC. NZ Football president Johanna Wood is also a FIFA Council member but is ineligible to vote.
Predicted votes in favour: 2/2

Final result: This prediction delivers a win for Australia and New Zealand by 23 votes to 12 over Colombia.

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