International multilateral organisations and state resistance
: case study analyses of FIFA’s member associations and state-led ‘government interference’

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Why and when do states choose to resist international multilateral organisations with voluntary membership? Although theories of governance assert that international multilateral organisations must meet the demands of their constituents to exist, resistant state behaviour in multilateral settings highlights the ongoing negotiations between states and multilateral organisations that lead to both conflict and cooperation in global governance. This thesis explores how the conflict between organisational autonomy and state compliance can lead to state resistance to multilateral norms without shaking the foundations of organisational legitimacy and state sovereignty that inherently characterise multilateral settings.

This thesis introduces a three-step model to examine why and when state resistance occurs in multilateral settings: first by defining state resistance, second by establishing the organisation’s set costs of resistance, and lastly outlining the state’s response to the realised costs of resistance. Our model assumes that states are aware of the costs of resistance and then decide to comply or resist given multilateral norms based on various state beliefs about itself and the organisation. The decision to comply or resist is based on the calculated costs of resistance and the state’s assessment of its ability to mitigate those costs, resulting in realised costs of resistance.

This model is explored through conflict and cooperation around “government interference” in international football affairs, involving the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), its member associations and their respective state governments. The model is then tested using three case studies of state resistance to FIFA norms in three FIFA member associations: the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in Spain; the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in Nigeria; and the Chinese Football Association (CFA) in mainland China. These case studies represent varying degrees of “government interference,” FIFA’s response to state resistance, and the costs incurred or avoided by states. The case studies prove that actors in multilateral settings prioritise cooperation even when it comes at a cost.
Date of Award1 Feb 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRamon Pacheco Pardo (Supervisor) & Xu Guoqi (Supervisor)

Cite this