How is the winner of the Ballon d’Or chosen? It gets political…


FIFA Ballon d'Or how is the winner chosen

The FIFA Ballon d’Or Award is presented to the best player in the world over a 12 month period. But how is the best player chosen? What are the criteria?

Why is there often controversy such as Philipp Lahm, the World Cup winning Captain saying that defenders should be chosen. Or that very few defenders have won the trophy and that only one goalkeeper has ever won the Ballon d’Or?

And why do we say the voting is very political? Let’s investigate, with the Destination Soccer Guide to the Ballon d’Or voting process.

The FIFA Ballon d’Or Voting Process

We will use the voting structure and process for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015 Award, which was presented in January 2016 as our structure. As you are aware, this was Lionel Messi’s 5th Ballon d’Or Award. The other two players who made it to the last three were Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar from Brazil in third place.

But, how did we even get to this point?

The winners are chosen by votes. Each voter chooses three players in ‘decreasing order of merit’ – meaning they put who they think is the best first, then the second and the third best player in the world in their opinion.

There are three groups of voters. Each Group makes up one third of the total voting pool for the Ballon d’Or winner.

The three Groups are:
– Captains of the FIFA accredited National Football Teams (Men’s). Each Captain gets one vote and they can vote for the national team and/or club team they represent.
However, they cannot vote for themselves. Currently both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the captains of their respective national teams. (Messi reversed his retirement from international football). So therefore Ronaldo cannot vote for himself.

– The Coaches of each FIFA accredited Men’s National Team. They can vote for their own players

– Specialist football or sports journalists from each country. Only one journalist is allowed per country, and they can vote for someone from their own country or who play for clubs in their own country.

Together, these three groups make up equal numbers and so the votes are then cast.

Why the FIFA Ballon d’Or voting becomes political

FIFA publishes the votes made by each voter on their website. This means it is not a secret ballot where people can vote for whoever they want with no consequences. Team-mates, players who play for coaches as well as opposition team-mates and the people who decide the level of access journalists get to their players read or find out who each person voted for.

This is why we get some nonsensical voting. For example for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015, awarded in January 2016, Cristiano Ronaldo voted for Karim Benzema as the world’s best player.

Is there anyone else on the planet who truly believes Benzema was the best player in the world in 2015? If you scour, the voting records you might find someone but realistically this was a vote so as to not vote for Messi and also all three of Ronaldo’s votes were for Real Madrid players.

That way in training the next day, he can tell them or show them how he voted.

This is what makes it political. There are consequences for who you voted for. If a Real Madrid player who was captain of their country voted for Messi, that could have repercussions in the Madrid changing room.

The Next Stage

However, the voters can only vote from a shortlist of 23 players who are chosen by the FIFA Football Committee as well as representatives from the Amaury Group (which is the publisher of France Football magazine, the joint owner of the Ballon d’Or Awards).

The top player chosen by a voter, or jury member as they are technically called, gets 5 points, the 2nd best player gets 3 points and then the third best gets 1 point.

Then, there is the voting and calculations done. There is a slight weighting done here. So the points are calculated according to the category of voter – i.e. national team captain, national team coach and specialist journalist.

But the weighting has to be 1/3 from each category. So let’s say 100 national team coaches cast their votes and so do 100 national team captains. So far, so good, it is an equal split. But, if only 80 specialist journalists cast their votes, then the votes are weighted so that it is as if 100 votes were given from journalists.

I.e. we have to have equivalent weighting from the different groups. This stops for example if one group was heavily favoring one player it doesn’t skew the results.

So, the winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or is that player who receives the highest weighted percentage of points using this electoral weighting. It is not really one person one vote as the votes are slightly altered to make each category equal in their importance.

What happens if there is a tie in the FIFA Ballon d’Or Award voting?

If there ever was a tie in the total number of weighted percentage of points between two or more players, then the player who had the most five point scores will receive the Ballon d’Or for that year.

If there is a tie at even that stage with two players having the same number of both percentage points and the total number of five point awards or the same number of votes in first place, then whoever had the most second place votes wins.

If even this is a draw, then both players will jointly receive the Award. It has never happened before.

The FIFA Ballon d’Or Voting Period

The voting period is typically between October and November 2016, and at least two-thirds of all voters must have voted for the Ballon d’Or Award to become official. If enough people have not voted in that period, then FIFA and the Amaury Group may extend voting by a week.

All voting is supervised and monitored by the accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as an independent party.

However, FIFA and the Amaury Group have had it put into the rules whereby they can disregard any vote at their own discretion when the voter has been involved with any “unethical and/or disreputable act(s) or undertaking(s). FIFA and the Amaury Group don’t need to publish this or even tell the person whose vote has been discarded.

For the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015, 165 national team coaches, 162 national team captains and 171 media representatives voted. Messi received 41.33% of all votes ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo with 27.76% and Neymar 7.86%.

Messi chose Luis Suarez as his No. 1 vote. James Rodriguez as Captain of Colombia chose Ronaldo as his No.1 vote. And only Real Madrid players.

The most interesting vote was that of Portugese Coach Fernando Santos. Of course, he chose Ronaldo as his No. 1 vote. But in second place he had Lionel Messi! And Neymar in third place. But then he did go on to win Euro 2016. Maybe that was also a message to Ronaldo that the Coach is the Boss.

The Portugese media representative chose Messi in front of Ronaldo in her vote. That is also interesting. Maybe that is the real reason Ronaldo threw the microphone into the lake.


So there you have it. National team coaches, captains and one media representative from each country choose their favored players from the 23 choices given to them by the FIFA Football Committee.

Oh, and the Awards are “bestowed according to on-field performance and overall behaviour on and off the pitch.”

Full Destination Soccer Ballon d’Or Coverage

Ballon d’Or winner selection process

World football governing body FIFA and French football magazine France Football have announced the list of 23 footballers who will be competing for the prestigious Ballon d’Or 2016.

France Football used to award the Ballon d’Or since 1956 – the first recipient of the gong was England international and Blackpool legend Stanley Mathews. It remained the most prestigious individual honour until it remained in existence till 2009.

However in 1991, FIFA started its own version of best player honour and named it the FIFA World Player of the Year award – the first recipient of the award was Germany international Lothar Matthaus. It also remained in existence until 2009 and the last winner of the same was Argentine maestro Lionel Messi.

So what happened after 2009?

FIFA and France Football combined their awards and formed the FIFA Ballon d’Or. The two institutions select the players competing for the award and subsequently whittle it down to a 23-man shortlist and ultimately to a final three. The selected trio are then called for the award function, which is generally held in early January in Zurich, where the winner is given the famous trophy.

The players who performed the best for their club and country, irrespective of their nationalities from the period of 22nd November 2014 until 20th November 2015 are in the running for the award next year.

The national team captains from all FIFA member countries, their captains as well as some of the prominent journalists will cast their votes for their top three candidates for the award, and a final list that will be made after tallying the cumulative points from all the votes will be used to come up with a list of the final three and the rest.

Here’s a list of the 23 men who are in the running for the gong come January:

Sergio Aguero (Argentina/Manchester City), Gareth Bale (Wales/Real Madrid), Karim Benzema (France/Real Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium/VfL Wolfsburg/Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Belgium/Chelsea), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden/Paris Saint-Germain), Andres Iniesta (Spain/FC Barcelona), Toni Kroos (Germany/Real Madrid), Robert Lewandowski (Poland/FC Bayern Munich), Javier Mascherano (Argentina/FC Barcelona), Lionel Messi (Argentina/FC Barcelona), Thomas Muller (Germany/FC Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Germany/FC Bayern Munich), Neymar (Brazil/FC Barcelona), Paul Pogba (France/Juventus), Ivan Rakitic (Croatia/FC Barcelona), Arjen Robben (Netherlands/FC Bayern Munich), James Rodriguez (Colombia/Real Madrid), Alexis Sanchez (Chile/Arsenal), Luis Suarez (Uruguay/FC Barcelona), Yaya Toure (Cote d’Ivoire/Manchester City), Arturo Vidal (Chile/Juventus/FC Bayern Munich).

FIFA makes the voting lists public, which is a good source of checking who has voted for whom. In the previous years it has been apparent that there is bias in the way the managers and the captains vote for the players. They are often seen to vote players from their own team –whether club or national team – instead of better rivals. Now, it does not imply that the players that they voted for are not deserving, after all voting for a player that one thinks made the most difference in a calendar year is a subjective decision, but still it does reek of some bias when, say, Iker Casillas chooses Sergio Ramos over Lionel Messi, like it happened in the 2014 voting.

The voting period for the next edition of the awards commences on 26 October 2015 and closes on 20 November 2015 (midnight CET). It will be interesting to see the voting patterns.