Voting Process For FIFA Ballon d’Or Award Needs to Change to Remove Bias

Enough ink has already been spent on whether Cristiano Ronaldo deserved to win this year’s Ballon d’Or award. Instead, I want to put a focus on the voting procedure and some issues with it.

National team managers and captains are given the opportunity to vote for the award. On the surface, this may seem fair but after examining the votes of several managers and players, I believe a change must be made. Each voter votes for first, second and third.

Let us start with US Head Coach and Technical Director Jürgen Klinsmann who voted for a player he previously coached, Franck Ribery, as his first choice and then omitted both Ronaldo and Lionel Messi from his ballot. This can be seen potentially as strategic voting. Ribery clearly had a case for the award and I personally would have cast a ballot for him if I were voting. But leaving the other two leading contenders off the ballot is suspicious to say the least. Ottmar Hitzfeld, who also managed Ribery at Bayern, voted for his former player but then voted for the other two finalists, Ronaldo and Messi.

Similar strategic voting patterns can be seen in other ballots as well. Iker Casillas left Messi off his ballot, opting to vote for his club teammate Ronaldo first, Ribery second and Arjen Robben, his former teammate, a surprising third.

While Messi did not vote for himself, he voted three teammates from Barcelona in one, two and three order, strategically omitting the two other potential winners from his ballot. Ribery’s national captain Hugo Lloris voted the Frenchman first but then voted fellow goalkeeper Manuel Neuer second and former Tottenham teammate Gareth Bale third. Radamel Falcao was first on Ronaldo’s ballot while he voted for two Real Madrid  teammates as second and third.

Philip Lahm, Germany’s captain and club teammate of Ribery, did not take the same sort of strategy. Sure he voted for his Bayern teammate but then voted for the other two finalists 2nd and 3rd. The same can be said for Claudio Pizzaro, a teammate of Riberry’s at Bayern, who voted in the same order as Lahm.

Some other possibly biased votes were recorded by players and coaches. Didier Drogba placed his international teammate Yaya Toure at the top of his ballot. Turkish coach Fatih Terim voted Mesut Özil who is of Turkish descent first on his ballot. Italian National Team manager Cesare Prandelli voted for Andrea Pirlo first and did not place any of the finalists on his ballot.

While the idea of having players and coaches vote gives a broader brush to the process, it also leads to obvious biases. Interestingly the media voting seemed far more objective and less biased. Ribery did far better among media than among players and coaches perhaps partially because of his own bad-boy image and difficulties with attitude in the past. Or maybe much of the media interprets the award differently than the players and coaches do.

In any event, obvious conflicts arise by having active players and coaches votes. The same can be said for media in some cases, and while transparency is a good thing in revealing who voted for whom, it may also lead to the need to vote for teammates and players coaches currently manage or formerly managed.

6 thoughts on “Voting Process For FIFA Ballon d’Or Award Needs to Change to Remove Bias”

  1. Ehh. All sports voting is a joke to some extent in this manner. Doesnt really bother me and dont really see a way to fix it that is really worth it.

    So as i said, it doesnt really bother me.

  2. This clearly “bias” but that is how fifa votes count its no surprise to any body every manager votes his player and every captain votes his teamate also include every journalist votes his man. Don’t suprise! That is how fifa works!!

  3. When I first heard Ribery was in the running I was shocked (as were my soccer fan friends here at work). I didn’t see anything from him personally that indicated he deserved it. Voting in any system will always result in bias.

    1. Are you kidding me? You didn’t see ANYTHING that made Ribery deserve it??? How about the fact that he led Messi and Ronaldo in assists, dribbles, chances created, distance covered, pass accuracy, tackles AND won a TREBLE as Bayern’s best player and won MOTM in the Chapions League, UEFA Super CUp AND Club World Cup??? Literally the ONLY thing Ronaldo did better than Ribery was score goals and that’s because Ribery is a playmaker, not a goal scorer.

  4. it’s all good and dandy to say the voting process needs to change. but it’s pointless Kartik if you do not give any alternative as to what it should be changed into.

    I do not subscribe to the current media resvisionist train of thought that the Balon d’or voting used to be so great and perfect before it got merged with fifa player of the year. It used to be one of the worst pretentious voting process in the past with some of the most head-scratching outcome. one just need to see how the likes of Ronaldo, Zidane and Thierry Henry got treated by that award voters.

    For all the talk about this edition of the Balon d’Or, I think it is the fairest way to do it. The only change I think that needs to be done to improve it would be to make the voting anonymous. Not revealing who voted for who would help fix the issue that Kartik brought up about strategic voting.

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