So I am back working in Tokyo this week, for obvious reasons; and because my team in Japan work incredibly hard for me, I was sitting at my PC near them at 9.20pm pretending to also work hard when I received an instant message from a colleague in New York – a Brooklynite with a mild interest in soccer and a strong interest in winding me up.  This is what it said:

Ranking…. Team Pts
Sep 09
+/- Ranking
Aug 09
+/- Pts
Aug 09
1 Brazil Brazil 1604 0 Equal -38
2 Spain Spain 1588 0 Equal -2
3 Netherlands Netherlands 1376 0 Equal -3
4 Italy Italy 1186 1 Up 5
4 Germany Germany 1186 0 Equal -9
6 Russia Russia 1129 0 Equal -32
7 England England 1127 0 Equal -8
8 Argentina Argentina 1113 0 Equal 33
9 Croatia Croatia 1101 1 Up 70
10 France France 1040 -1 Down -19
11 USA USA 974 1 Up -17
12 Greece Greece 971 -1 Down -30
13 Serbia Serbia 916 1 Up -9
14 Australia Australia 907 2 Up 11
15 Switzerland Switzerland 898 -2 Down -32
16 Denmark Denmark 892 -1 Down -17
17 Portugal Portugal 880 0 Equal -1
18 Czech Republic Czech Republic 870 4 Up 20
19 Bulgaria Bulgaria 860 4 Up 21
20 Côte d'Ivoire Côte d’Ivoire 852 -2 Down -22
21 Chile Chile 846 5 Up 29
22 Israel Israel 844 3 Up 22
23 Paraguay Paraguay 842 -3 Down -14
24 Mexico Mexico 835 6 Up 36
25 Ukraine Ukraine 829 -6 Down -40
26 Romania Romania 827 1 Up 13
27 Turkey Turkey 826 1 Up 17
28 Uruguay Uruguay 820 -7 Down -31
29 Cameroon Cameroon 819 0 Equal 16
30 Scotland Scotland 804 -6 Down -33

You probably know what these are – the latest FIFA rankings.  I knew this instantly because every time Scotland lose an international match, or the USA win one, my ginger New York pal Doug takes the effort to dig these rankings out to have a dig at me.  (Nice dig, Doug.)

Moving on.

I am a huge believer in serendipity.  Not the café on East 59th Street which serves frozen hot chocolate (how do they do that?); but the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate (especially while looking for something entirely unrelated, says Wikipedia, but I’ll ignore that bit as it doesn’t suit my purpose).  I believe in serendipity because usually it’s approaching midnight on a Wednesday night and I’ve no idea what to write for you, dear reader (based on polling data, I am using the singular); then serendipity intervenes, I write my column, and I get off to bed, where I toss and turn for an hour or two listening to Mrs Williamson snoring, until finally I drop off to sleep.

Anyway.  A few weeks back, I mentioned in a jokey fashion that if Scotland made the playoff draw, FIFA would fix it so the playoffs would be seeded – “so the wee teams play the big teams” as I put it (Kenny MacAskill’s Secret Masterplan Revealed, Sept 3, 2009).

Well, what do we learn this week, but Sepp Blatter has decided that the playoffs will indeed be seeded.  Ireland are outraged, and so should they be; as Shay Given says, ”The rules should be laid out clearly before any ball is kicked.”  [He later goes on to say “To change it at this stage is beyond belief” which is perhaps demonstrating a child-like naivete when it comes to football politics, unlike his world-weary team-mate Kevin Kilbane: “It is a joke, let’s be honest, because they always seem to bend the rules.”]

I couldn’t agree more.

We have the world’s premier football tournament, probably the world’s biggest sporting event, governed by some fat chancer making the rules up as he goes along.  What’s stopping FIFA saying up front that the playoffs will be seeded?  Nothing.  They’re either incompetent or corrupt.  I think a bit of both, but mainly the latter.  They want the big teams – sorry, the big TV audiences – to get to the finals to make their sponsors happy, so Blatter and Warner and all the rest of those parasite leeching scumbags can maintain their first-class lifestyle in the midst of the worst global economic crisis in living memory.

So how will they decide seedings?  Well, looks like they’ll use the comically meaningless FIFA rankings.   So, France (potential TV audience: 65m) might finish second and be in a playoff, but no danger of them facing Italy (60m) should the Irish do the thing FIFA don’t want.  Maybe they’d prefer them to face plucky wee Northern Ireland (1.8m) to avoid losing 63.2m potential viewers.

I fired back to my antagonist:

Ranking Team…………………. Old Ranking Points Population (m) Points per.m
1 Uruguay Uruguay 28 820 3 273.33
2 Croatia Croatia 9 1101 4.5 244.67
3 Denmark Denmark 16 892 5.5 162.18
4 Scotland Scotland 30 804 5 160.80
5 Paraguay Paraguay 23 842 6.5 129.54
6 Switzerland Switzerland 15 898 7.5 119.73
7 Bulgaria Bulgaria 19 860 7.5 114.67
8 Israel Israel 22 844 7.5 112.53
9 Serbia Serbia 13 916 10 91.60
10 Greece Greece 12 971 11 88.27
11 Portugal Portugal 17 880 10.5 83.81
12 Netherlands Netherlands 3 1376 16.5 83.39
13 Czech Republic Czech Republic 18 870 10.5 82.86
14 Chile Chile 21 846 17 49.76
15 Cameroon Cameroon 29 819 19.5 42.00
16 Australia Australia 14 907 22 41.23
17 Côte d'Ivoire Côte d’Ivoire 20 852 21 40.57
18 Romania Romania 26 827 21.5 38.47
19 Spain Spain 2 1588 46 34.52
20 Argentina Argentina 8 1113 40 27.83
21 England England 7 1127 51 22.10
22 Italy Italy 4 1186 60 19.77
23 Ukraine Ukraine 25 829 46 18.02
24 France France 10 1040 65 16.00
25 Germany Germany 4 1186 82 14.46
26 Turkey Turkey 27 826 71.5 11.55
27 Brazil Brazil 1 1604 192 8.35
28 Russia Russia 6 1129 142 7.95
29 Mexico Mexico 24 835 107.50 7.77
30 USA USA 11 974 308 3.16

I am forthwith patenting this as the “Williamson-modified FIFA Bollocks Ranking Scale”.   It’s a population-adjusted FIFA ranking; I took the number of points in the original FIFA table, and divided that by the population (in millions) of each country, then ranked countries high-to-low.

As you can see: small countries punch well above their weight, and big countries can frankly go and lick my balls.  [Unexpected bonus for my ongoing transcontinental dialogue: USA comes bottom.]

I’m not sure this is really going to help Ireland in their predicament, because, well, even if they were the top seeds they’d end up playing the likes of France or Italy who would now be at the bottom.  But it makes me feel better having done this, and you should feel free to use it in arguments with supporters from big countries who mistake quantity for quality.  You’ll have to pay me royalties, but it’ll be worth it.


Answer to the question in the title: “As many as FIFA World Cup ™ Sponsors can shove down his throat.”


  1. What a load of rubbish. Uruguay top and Scotland fourth but no Northern Ireland who are only three and one places behind them teams respectively in the Fifa World Rankings.

    Surely Northern Ireland have a smaller population than bothe Uruguay and Scotland.

    If you are going to do something like this you either do it properly or not at all.

  2. i’ve just heard it’s been adjusted again based on population being drunk at any one time….unfortunately, you’re back down to 412th….

  3. Actually I think St Vincent and the Grenadines would be near the top – 139 points and 0.12 million people = 1158.33 points, and I they’re just a band from Brooklyn.
    Obviously there are one or two minor flaws in this argument but a) it’s quite funny and b) we’re better than all the teams ranked below us right now (31 and lower) so I think its good logic.
    And I think we’d give the top three a good game too. So basically we are the best. Thanks Billy.

  4. This is fantastic, but the above moaners have a point. I’d like to see a full FIFA table with all member states’ points adjusted accordingly.

    However, as I am a lazy knackerbag, unless someone else does it on my behalf I never will….

  5. My problem with the Fifa Rankings is that they are actually reasonably accurate within a continent (a conference, technically, but …). That’s not an issue in itself, but Scotland are shite right now and I’d rather not see that represented in any league table.

    The inter-continent rankings are a joke though, as they just assign a random, sorry _arbitrary_, co-efficient to each continent… nothing about how the teams actually perform comes into it.

    Anyway, with Scotland #30 in the world, how come we’re not in the world cup? And bring on the 24-team Euros.

  6. p.s. I’d also like to see the full set of fifa rankings done by population, but am also too lazy to do it myself.

  7. This is a bit of the Unofficial World Cup which tracks the best team in the world as if it was a boxer : you win – you are still champ, you lose – you lose the title. Scotland are the all time champtions and therefore best team in the world ever.