Plotting a long-awaited “path” towards equality, FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced on Thursday that the global football governing body’s “ambition” and “aim” are on offer at the 2026 and 2027 men’s and women’s World Cups. Same prize money.
Infantino also said that, in the more immediate term, players and staff at the 2023 Women’s World Cup would have “equal conditions” and services for the men in 2022. And FIFA’s ruling council approved an increase in 2023 World Cup prize money, more than the $60 million that Infantino had previously promised.
The new $110 million pot, however, is still only 25% of the $440 million paid to the 32 national football federations participating in the 2022 Men’s World Cup, despite the two tournaments welcoming the same number of teams.
The prize money gap, which has been the subject of criticism from women’s soccer players and advocates, has for decades encouraged every soccer association around the world to invest a greater proportion of resources in the success of the men’s national team.
The money goes directly to those associations. Some players’ unions have bargained with their federations for a portion of this, but this has clearly never been player compensation; It has always been primarily a reward for investment, and thus an incentive for unequal investment. Less than a decade ago, federations earned a share of $358 million if their men’s teams qualified for the 2014 World Cup, and just $15 million if their women’s teams qualified for the 2015 World Cup. Part. A decade before that, before 2007, there was no financial reward for Women’s World Cup success.
FIFA, a non-profit, has never provided an on-record rationale for the disparity. Some have justified this by pointing to the commercial pull of the men’s tournament. But, until recently, FIFA sold the broadcast and sponsorship rights for the men’s and women’s World Cups as a bundle; It cannot really point to disparity in revenue. And furthermore, critics argued, FIFA’s lack of investment in the women’s game, combined with its reluctance to encourage investment at the national level, was a primary driver of the Women’s World Cup’s poor performance in the viewership and commercial sectors.
But now the tide is changing.
In the past decade, players and some federations, led by the stars of the US women’s national team, have increased public pressure on FIFA to correct the disparities. Last October, FIFPRO, an umbrella body representing men’s and women’s players around the world, wrote to FIFA on behalf of 150 women players from 25 different countries, asking for “regulations for the men’s and women’s FIFA World Cups”. and for the same structure of conditions, including the same prize money.”
He argued in the letter, which was obtained by Yahoo Sports, that the prize money “heavily influences how countries will prioritize their efforts to support the men’s national team compared to the women’s national team.” also perpetuates the attitude of being a ‘cost’ rather than a contributor to football in some parts of the world. This is because the same effort and achievement does not bring equal reward. We want our performance to matter, Be important not only to us but to the entire football family in our country and around the world.”
FIFA seems to have heard the growing chorus from players and around the world, particularly in Europe and North America.
Infantino concluded FIFA’s annual congress in Rwanda on Thursday, which he described as a three-stage “journey” towards equal pay and more. Step 1 had already been taken, or at least promised: for the first time in FIFA 2023, Offer to dedicate base camps to women’s teams and other facilities, travel accommodation and facilities at par with the Men’s World Cup. (Or so it says.)
Phase 2 is a significant increase in prize money. Announcing this, Infantino also specified that $110 million – of which the largest portion, likely to be around $10 million, goes to the champions, with the smallest portion going to the 16 teams eliminated in the group stage – the federations. must be allocated in chunks. Partly for investment in youth football, and partly directly for the players.
This was a key point in the FIFPRO letter. “Many players have no agreement with their [federations] To ensure that they receive fair and equitable treatment, including guaranteed World Cup compensation as a part of the World Cup prize money.” The players sought a “global guarantee of at least 30% of the prize money”, Infantino said. The exact plan is under discussion.
Infantino concluded, “Now comes Phase 3, the hardest, most complicated step, the step that will take the most time.” Phase 3 is overcoming decades of neglect that have left the men’s game behind the women’s game commercially.
To kickstart this catch-up, FIFA last year created a new marketing concept dedicated to women’s soccer, and began selling sponsorship and broadcast rights for the Women’s World Cup separately. Its goal, Infantino said, is to “be able to achieve parity in pay for the 2026 men’s and 27 women’s World Cups.”
Of course, FIFA could equalize the payments if it wanted to – there is no direct link between revenue and prize money – but Infantino argued they needed to get companies and broadcasters on board as well.
He chastised media companies and especially “public broadcasters in the big countries” for criticizing FIFA’s inequities, while negotiating for women’s World Cup rights by offering them less money than they currently do at men’s World Cup rates. pay for.
“We all need to be on the same side,” said Infantino. “FIFA will play its part. We have already started. [We need] Others have to do the same.”
“FIFA is leading not with words, but with action,” he added. And while there was no binding promise, nothing firm about his commitment to equal pay in 2026 and 2027, many felt it was genuine.
“Significant progress has been made in the redistribution of conditions, prize money and prize money for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup,” FIFPRO said in a statement hours later. It acknowledged that details still needed to be confirmed, but said: “The progress announced today demonstrates the intent of the players and FIFA to actively work towards greater equity and equality for the industry. “