How are the Fifa world rankings determined? And how do other sports decide who's best?


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The Independent Football

The recently-published Fifa rankings drew much criticism after England were heralded as the fourth-best football side in the world.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics perhaps, but how have Fifa’s notoriously complex rankings formula got it so wrong this time?

England haven’t reached the last four of a major competition for sixteen years, but according to the statistics they remain a better side than Portugal, Italy and Brazil.

Here’s a guide to see how the rankings are determined, and how other major sports calculate their lists and whether they are doing a better job....



Points are based on the results of all Fifa-recognised full international matches.

Points are awarded for the result and importance of the match, multiplied by the strength and confederation of the opposition (Result x Importance x Strength x Confederation). Rankings are based on a team's performance over the last four years. Therefore beating Spain in a World Cup match would gain the maximum 2400 points (3x4x200x1).

The current system has been in place since the 2006 World Cup, where the time frame was reduced from eight to four years.



Fifa’s rankings are based on the previous four-year period. Alternatively, the South African Airways ATP Rankings are formulated from the immediate past 52 weeks, except for the World Tour Finals which take place following the last regular-season ATP event of the year.

Weighted in favour of performances in the Grand Slams, Novak Djokovic is the current world number one, with the Serbian having come within one match of becoming the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four major titles at the same time.

Maria Sharapova is the current women’s number one following her French Open victory. The women’s rankings have drawn criticism in the past however, notably when Caroline Wosniacki spent 67 weeks as world number one without having won a single Grand Slam.



The official golf rankings are computed on a rolling two-year basis.

Ranking points are ascribed to the six leading professional tours, weighted, as with tennis, towards the four major tournaments. The average ranking is found by dividing total points by tournaments played.

A logical, albeit complex system, has Luke Donald as current world number one having never won a major. The Englishman did become the first man to win the US and European money lists in one year in 2011 however.



Unlike the time-based lists of other sports, the IRB World Rankings are calculated using a 'Points Exchange' system, in which sides take points off each other based on the match result. Whatever one side gains, the other loses. The exchanges are based on the match result, the relative strength of each team, and the margin of victory, and there is an allowance for home advantage.

Points exchanges are doubled during the World Cup Finals to recognise the unique importance of the event, but all other full international matches are treated the same.

World champions New Zealand top the current list.



Like golf, snooker’s world ranking is based on performances over a two-year period. The point allocation is updated after every tournament and is dependent on the importance of each tournament, with the world championship receiving a greater distribution of points than the others.

2007 World Championships runner-up Mark Selby currently holds the top spot.



The ICC Test, ODI and T20 rankings are all calculated using an on-going points accumulation system where ranking points are on offer in each match and series. Each team's rating is equal to its total points scored divided by the total matches and series played.

England are the current Test and T20 world number one ranked side, with the Australian team regarded as the best one-day side. Had England beaten Australia 5-0 in the current one-day series, they would have become the first side to simultaneously hold the top ranking in all three disciplines of the game. That chance was scuppered by the rain at Edgbaston yesterday.