FIFA vs UEFA – What’s The Difference?

Last updated on July 10th, 2022

FIFA and UEFA are 2 of the major governing bodies in football. You may have encountered them in several sources.

Both organisations control many decisions in the world of football both on and off the pitch. Although they are both confederations, you may wonder what’s the difference.

Here’s what you need to know: 

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Difference Between Gecko and Lizard
What’s the difference between FIFA and UEFA?

FIFA means Federation International de Football Association (International Federation of International Football). Meanwhile, UEFA means the Union of European Football Associations.

Since both are confederations, they comprise federations which cater to football in their respective countries. Here is a further comparison between these 2 organisations:

Territory of Jurisdiction

FIFA, established in 1904, is the supreme governing body of football in the entire world. As such, their area of administration involves the entire planet. This means any decision FIFA makes is likely to directly affect the entire football world. 

On the other hand, UEFA, established in 1954, is the governing organisation of football in Europe. As such, their area of administration encompasses the continent of Europe and the federations within. 

Thus, any action taken by UEFA will only impact the entire region.

Both organisations are headquartered in Switzerland, Europe. However, the FIFA headquarters is in Zurich while the UEFA headquarters is in Nyon.

Membership 

Since FIFA is the paramount confederation of world football, this means that every football federation and confederation, including UEFA, must be recognised by and therefore subsidiary to FIFA. 

There are 211 member federations under FIFA. Many more members exist under FIFA than the UN because the organisation allows membership for several non-sovereign states, such federations include:

  • England
  • Wales
  • Scotland
  • Northern Ireland
  • Macau
  • Kosovo
  • Gibraltar
  • Hong Kong

Several nations are not members of FIFA, most of them belong to another confederation known as CONIFA. As of today, CONIFA has 50 member associations and organises tournaments for the countries therein. 

Karpatalja, a national team representing the Hungarian minority in Carpathian Ruthenia, won the last edition of the CONIFA World Football Cup.  

Countries can apply to FIFA for membership, which is subject to approval. They can also be suspended for several reasons especially government interference and woeful administration. 

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, FIFA suspended the Russian Football Union’s membership as a result of the crisis. 

All six confederations overseeing their respective regions belong to FIFA. UEFA is one of these confederations, and the others are:

FederationContinentMember Countries 
CONMEBOLSouth America10 countries
AFCAsia47 countries
CONCACAFNorth America, Central America
and the Caribbean
41 countries
CAFAfrica56 countries
OFCOceania13 countries

This is why clubs from other countries like the MLS cannot play in the UEFA Champions League, as well as some other countries.

Meanwhile, UEFA only comprises the several federations in Europe that are recognised by FIFA. Thus, the organisation oversees 55 federations, some of which include:

CountryFederation
EnglandThe FA
SpainRFEF
GermanyDFB
FranceFFF
Netherlands KNVB

All of these associations and football activities involved within will be affected by UEFA’s competitions, awards, laws, rankings, and sanctions.

UEFA also maintains the right to accept member associations, but such associations must first be FIFA members since UEFA is a FIFA subsidiary. The organisation can also suspend their members.

The RFU also faced a UEFA ban due to the Ukraine crisis. As a result, the country’s clubs were suspended from all UEFA competitions and the national team was automatically disqualified from the upcoming Euros and 2022 World Cup qualifying rounds.

Leadership and Structure

FIFA is administered by the executive council and the FIFA congress. Not unlike many organisations, the president of FIFA does not shoulder the entire decision-making power.

The responsibility instead lies on the FIFA congress which comprises representatives from each member country of the supreme body. Once every year, the congress members deliberate and vote on several issues pertaining to the organisation’s laws.

FIFA Congress sessions also involve elections of executive council members and ratification of prospective membership.

However, the FIFA council runs most of the executive duties and other daily administrative tasks. The upper echelon comprises 37 people, including:

  • The President
  • 8 Vice Presidents
  • 28 confederations representatives 

The FIFA council is responsible for deciding the World Cup host country via the bidding process. Gianni Infantino leads the FIFA executive council as president.

UEFA is operated in a structure similar to FIFA, albeit less robust. The organisation is directly run by an executive committee, which includes:

  • The President
  • 5 Vice Presidents
  • General Secretary

Aleksander Ceferin leads the executive committee as the president of UEFA. 

The UEFA Congress is also involved in the organisation’s running and there are two separate congresses. An ordinary or extraordinary congress may be arranged depending on the situation which encompasses several areas including:

  • Election of UEFA president
  • Election of UEFA Executive Council
  • Amendment to UEFA laws & statutes, and many more.

Awards

Both organisations are very important in world football and have the required pedigree to give awards to deserving personel of the game. 

FIFA organises the Best FIFA Football Awards, a gala to recognise the best in the world for their efforts, the accolades include:

  • Best FIFA Men’s Player
  • Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper
  • Best FIFA Women’s Player
  • Best FIFA Football Coach
  • FIFPRO World XI 
  • Puskas Award

FIFA formerly presented the Ballon D’or award in conjunction with French Football for 6 editions. Within that period, Lionel Messi won 4 FIFA Ballon D’ór trophies. 

Robert Lewandowski won the 2021 FIFA Men’s player award after an astounding season with Bavarian giants, Bayern Munich.

Meanwhile, UEFA also organises an award gala to honour the best in Europe’s football, the awards include:

  • UEFA Men’s Player of the Year
  • UEFA Women’s Player of the Year
  • UEFA Men’s Coach of the Year
  • UEFA Women’s Coach of the Year

Cristiano Ronaldo has won the most UEFA Player of the Year awards (3 times). He also holds the highest goalscoring record in the Champions League.

You can find out how the UEFA Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or differ here.

The organisation gives a set of awards for the best efforts in the previous Champions League season. Players and coaches stand a chance to win an award, including:

  • UEFA Champions League Goalkeeper of the season
  • UEFA Champions League Defender of the season
  • UEFA Champions League Midfielder of the season
  • UEFA Champions League Forward of the season
  • UEFA Technical Observers Best Goal of the season
  • UEFA Fans’ Goal of the Season
  • UEFA Team of the Year

Oliver Kahn won the most of these awards (4) for four consecutive years during his stellar career with Bayern Munich.  

National Competitions 

FIFA has been responsible for football’s most prestigious competition, the World Cup. The body makes all the arrangements necessary for the tournament, including:

  • Selecting the host country(ies)
  • Arranging the qualification process
  • Scheduling the World Cup
  • Organising and overseeing the tournament

There are other international competitions organised by FIFA, including:

  • FIFA Women World Cup
  • FIFA Arab Cup
  • FIFA Confederations Cup
  • FIFA U-20 World Cup
  • FIFA U-17 World Cup
  • FIFA Futsal World Cup
  • FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup

France won the last World Cup edition after beating Croatia to lift the highly coveted trophy in the summer of 2018.

Meanwhile, UEFA also organises several tournaments, including the Euros and UEFA Nations League. The Euros was first held in 1976, while the Nations League started more recently in 2018. 

The confederation organises other major competitions for national teams in Women’s and Youth level football, including:

  • UEFA Women’s Championship
  • UEFA U-21 Youth Championship
  • UEFA Futsal Championship 

Italy won the last Euros edition after thumping England in the penalty shoot-out.

UEFA and CONMEBOL made a collaborative effort to organise the La Finalissima Trophy, a one-off match competition between the European and South American Champions. Argentina won the 2022 trophy, the first edition since 1993.

Club Competitions

Although FIFA is mostly known for their national team competitions, they also organise competitions at club level. The FIFA Club World Cup is organised by the body annually.

In both competitions, the winners of the continental club tournaments from all six confederations contest for the world crown. The six competitions are:

  • UEFA Champions League
  • Copa Libertadores
  • CONCACAF Champions League
  • CAF Champions League
  • AFC Champions League
  • OFC Champions League

FIFA also organises a similar tournament at youth level known as the FIFA Youth Cup and has put plans in motion for the FIFA Women’s Club World Cup.   

UEFA organises continental club competitions for the many prestigious clubs in the region. Over 100 clubs partake in UEFA’s club tournaments each year which remain the most followed annual competitions in football, including:

  • UEFA Champions League
  • UEFA Europa League
  • UEFA Europa Conference League
  • UEFA Women’s Champions League
  • UEFA  Youth League 

You can find out how the Champions League and Europa League differ here.

At the beginning of every season, UEFA also organises a one-off match between winners of the Champions League and their Europa counterparts. This is known as the UEFA Super Cup.

The Champions League titleholders, Chelsea, won the 2021 Super Cup after beating Europa champions, Villarreal on penalties.  

You can find out more about the UEFA Super Cup here.

Rankings

FIFA publishes a ranking of all national teams every year. The rankings reflect the performance of each team through an elaborate model.

All international matches recognised by FIFA are considered for the ratings. The top rated nations in men’s football are:

  1. Brazil
  2. Belgium
  3. Argentina
  4. France 
  5. England

Copa America champions, Argentina are among the top 5 in the world after the emotional victory at the Maracana and defeating European champions, Italy, to clinch the La Finalissima trophy.

National teams in women’s football are also ranked by FIFA with similar metrics, the top countries include:

  1. United States
  2. Sweden
  3. France 
  4. Netherlands
  5. Germany

USWNT, the female American national team, is undoubtedly the best in women’s football and have dominated the world rankings for a very long time.They won the last edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the record fourth time.

On the other hand, UEFA rankings are mainly club-based. The European confederation ranks every league based on quality and uses this rankings to allocate berths in their continental tournaments.

UEFA’s ranking system is known as the UEFA coefficient rankings. However, the total standings are compiled over a five-year period.

The association coefficient rankings is decided by the results of clubs from teams from the respective leagues. UEFA awards two points for every win, one point for a draw and nil for a loss. 

 Bonus points are also awarded based on the achievements of league teams in Europe. Such points are awarded for:

Criteria Bonus points
Clubs that reach the group stage4 points
Group winners4 points for Europa, 2 points for Conference league 
Group runners-up2 points for Europa, 1 point for Conference league
Clubs that reach round of 165 points for Champions league, 1 point for Europa
Clubs that reach quaterfinals1 point for Champions and Europa leagues
Clubs that reach semifinals or final1 point for Champions, Europa and Conference leagues

After the season ends, the total number of points awarded to each association is divided by the number of teams from the league that participated in that season’s European competitions. The top 5 association leagues are:

Overall rankings2021/22 rankings
#1EnglandEngland
#2SpainNetherlands
#3GermanySpain
#4ItalyFrance
#5FranceGermany

England remains at the top of the coefficient rankings. Premier League teams have performed tremendously well in UEFA competitions over the past five years: 9 English teams have featured in the past 5 finals.

Clubs are also ranked by UEFA coefficient values, the top 5 clubs in the region are:

Overall rankings2021/22 rankings
#1Manchester CityLiverpool
#2Bayern MunichReal Madrid
#3ChelseaManchester City
#4LiverpoolBayern Munich
#5Paris Saint-GermainChelsea

The rankings are decided by the club’s performance in the Champions League, Europa League or Conference League. Clubs receive two coefficient points for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss.

Liverpool is the highest ranking team for the 2021/22 season after a great campaign winning 10 games, including all their group stage ties.They drew just one match and lost two, including the final against Real Madrid (who lost four games and won nine).

UEFA also curated an European National team rankings based on their performances in any european competitions especially the Euros (qualifiers and tournament) and World Cup Qualifying campaign. 

However, this ranking system was last published in 2017 and has since been overhauled in favour of the Nations League ranking. As such, UEFA now uses the Nations League ranking for seeding in its competitions. 

Nations League rankings are updated after each edition of the competition is concluded. The top 5 teams according to the 2018/19 Nations League ranking are:

  • Portugal
  • Netherlands
  • England
  • Switzerland
  • Belgium

Portugal finished top of the Nations League ranking after completing a victorious campaign as winners of the inaugural tournament in 2019.

Verdict

Here is a summary of the comparison between these two confederations:

FIFAUEFA
Territory Entire worldEuropean region 
Members211 countries worldwide55 European countries
StructureFIFA Congress
President of FIFA
37 executive council members 
UEFA Congress
President of UEFA
6 executive members
AwardsBest FIFA Men’s Player
Best FIFA Women’s Player
Puskas Award
UEFA Men’s Player of the Year
UEFA Women’s Player of the Year
UEFA seasonal Champions League Awards
National CompetitionsFIFA World Cup
FIFA Women’s World Cup
FIFA Arab Cup
UEFA Euros
UEFA Nations League
UEFA Women’s Euros
Club CompetitionsFIFA Club World Cup
FIFA Youth Cup
UEFA Champions League
UEFA Europa League
RankingsFIFA Men’s and Women’s
fNational Team rankings
UEFA coefficient rankings
UEFA Nations League rankings

Conclusion

FIFA and UEFA are two of the most important organisations in football. They both perform several roles off the pitch to ensure the smooth running of the sport in general.

However, FIFA oversees football in the entire world while UEFA oversees football only in the European region. Thus, they operate in many different ways.

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