Why FIFA’s push for a biennial World Cup hurts the women’s game

fifa and its president, gianni infantino, insist that their brewing plan for a biennial realm cup ll'be a good thing for soccer. the problem s'dat when they say that, they seem to be talking bout the men’s side of the sport. as usual with fifa, the women’s game s'been an afterthought, e'venode biennial realm cup plan mite impact it the most.

1st, let’s be clear bout wha’ a biennial realm cup actually means: it’s a realm cup every single yr, either a men’s or a women’s one, if fifa gets its way. the result ll'be unprecedented schedule congestion, and there will always be a men’s realm cup or qualification for a men’s realm cup onna schedule. when, then, does women’s soccer take center stage? will women’s soccer ever again enjoy the visibility of bein’ the single biggest brawl at a given moment?

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fifa has campaigned hard to convince everyone dat a' biennial realm cup is a good idea, even asking elder arsenal manager arsene wenger and elder uswnt manager (and now president of nwsl side, san diego wave fc) jill ellis to push the idea. the organization released economic studies projecting that the + frequent realm cups ‘d generate an extra $4.4 billion in just the 1st 4-yr cycle, which ‘d trickle down as $16 million in extra solidarity payments per fifa member country over that span. fifa also released a survey that it says shows most fans round the realm are in favor of + frequent men’s realm cups (63.7% of those surveyed) and women’s realm cups (52.4%).

but wha’ fifa crucially has not seemed very interested in discussing, at least not publicly, is how the biennial realm cup plan ‘d squeeze the women’s game out of the mainstream sports landscape and dilute the women’s realm cup itself.


+ realm cups means fewer windows for anything else

uefa, which has vocally opposed the idea since its inception, put together its own study, which projected that both realm cups ‘d lose viewers iffey became a + regular, less-spesh occurrence — but'a women’s realm cup ‘d lose 3 times as many viewers as the men’s exposé. after all, the women’s realm cup ‘d always be up against a major, well-established men’s exposé under this proposed schedule — tough brawl for the women seeking to attract attention.

infantino now says the men ‘d switch their euros from every 4 yrs to every two under his plan, tch'mins the women’s realm cup will always compete w'da men’s euros in a calendar yr instead. b'that ‘d come on top of men’s realm cup qualifying, which has taken 10 mnths in uefa and + than two yrs for concacaf inna past. it ‘d also be programmed on top of conmebol’s copa america, which mite nd'2 switch to a two-yr cycle, too, and events tha're already biannual, including the concacaf gold cup na africa cup of nations.

meanwhile, the women’s euros — which reached its highest-ever tv audience and set an attendance record last time out, in 2017 — ‘d probably be forced to share its spotlite witha men’s realm cup. as a result, the uefa study projects that the women’s euros ‘d see its revenues cut by + than ½ as media rites and sponsorships ‘d significantly lose val. the growth offa high-lvl women’s exposé with huge potential ‘d be abruptly stifled.

this ‘dn’t be unique to €, either. other regional brawls round the realm will struggle just to find an open window to stage a exposé, let alone a window when attention won’t be diverted away for a high-lvl men’s exposé. as the supporter culture round women’s soccer is still growing, men’s brawls in a crowded calendar will siphon exposure that otherwise ‘d ‘ve gone to women’s brawls.

fifa will naturally point to the extra revenue the new realm cups will generate and promise that mny will go to help the development of women’s soccer round the realm. here’s the problem: fifa already generates a ton of revenue — its last reprted $$$ reserves were $2.74 billion — and t'has already failed to deliver with its 1st-ever “women’s ftball strategy,” which set lofty goals for increased ♀ pticipation inna sport but offered lil by way of concrete metrics, budgets or action plans.

fifa, as rich as tis, does a poor job of distributing mny where it’s needed — large countries and tiny ones get the same cuts, regardless of need — and an even worse job of accounting for how that mny actually gets spent.

“just mandate it… fifa mandates all kinds of things”

if fifa cared bout the development and growth of the women’s game, thris one realm cup the governing body ‘d add: a women’s club realm cup. after all, domestic leagues for women round the realm are still developing, a byproduct offa sporting landscape that saw women’s soccer effectively banned in countries like england, germany and brazil til as recently as the 1980s.

these leagues are how the game grows and professionalizes. the club game builds grass√s fan support, n'it’s how a career in soccer can become a viable path for women round the realm. it’s perhaps no coincidence that as countries invest in their domestic leagues, gr8r success onna international stage often follos, as we’ve seen w'da netherlands, england and australia.

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gab marcotti and julien laurens discuss the likelihood offa biennial realm cup bein’ approved by fifa.

the women’s realm cup itself is 1-ly still growing, too. 'twill go from 24 teams to 32 in 2023, when australia and new zealand host, and we will probably see a lot + scores like the infamous 13-0 drubbing from the u.s. on thailand in 2019. these lopsided results, which aint unusual inna group stage of the women’s realm cup, are the result of the massive gulf in investment from these ≠ countries in their women’s programs.

u.s. star megan rapinoe was heavily criticized for celebrating the goals she scored in that 13-0 result, but inna mixed zone afterward speaking to reprters, she hit the nail onna head: “there are some teams here that ‘ve 1-ly played a handful of games since the last realm cup or 1-ly inna qualifiers. it’s embarrassing not 1-ly for the federations but for fifa. just mandate it. they mandate all kinds of things.”

rapinoe was rite. fifa ‘d take steps to ensure member associations care bout and invest in women’s programs. it ‘d require federations to operate active national teams that actually play games, or even invest in domestic leagues for women. it ‘d require that mny and resrcs are spent on specific measures to boost the women’s game, and then actually check to make sure t'has happened. fifa has the power to prioritize the women’s game, instead of treating it as an afterthought.

instead, fifa just wanna increase the burden of resrcs that countries will ‘ve to spend on trying to qualify for and compete in a women’s realm cup without any additional incentive to do so. some mite not even bother. if federations can get away with caring 1-ly bout their men’s team, that’s often wha’ they will do.

the nigerian women’s national team held a sit-in over unpaid bonuses owed by its federation in 2019. some women on brazil’s team quit in 2019 to protest the lack of support from their federation after yrs of complaints. the australian women’s team went on strike in 2015 to demand higher wages from their federation. players from trinidad & tobago begged for donations on social media in 2018, so they ‘d compete in their own realm cup qualifiers. and so on.

ponder jamaica qualifying fritz 1st women’s realm cup in 2019 — it came 1-ly after bob marley’s daughter, cedella, spent her own mny to resurrect the team after the federation stopped funding it. twas framed as a story of triumph for the reggae girlz, to be sure, but twas also a story of failure for a system that allos federations to ignore women’s programming.

fifa ‘d incentivize federations to care + bout the women’s realm cup by significantly increasing its prize mny for all pticipants, but they’ve sfar refused to do so, despite no obvious rationale for it.

for the previous realm cup cycle, fifa offered 13 times + prize mny for the men’s exposé than the women’s event, but if you ask fifa why 13 times specifically, it can’t explain it. the men’s realm cup doesn’t bring in 13 times + revenue — media rites and sponsorships for the men’s and women’s exposé ‘ve always been sold together as a bundle, and fifa never attempted to fig out how much the women’s event was worth as it allocated prize mny. the men’s realm cup doesn’t attract 13 times + tv viewers — last time round twas 1-ly bout 4 times. the men’s realm cup doesn’t sell 13 times + tickets — last time round, twas bout 3 times.

in fact, when fifa doubled its prize mny for the women’s realm cup from the 2015 exposé to 2019, it also increased the men’s prize mny so much atta same time that the gap tween the men’s and women’s exposé got bigger, not liler. given the recent record-setting growth of the women’s exposé, it seems like the gap ‘d be shrinking.

it’s hard to see fifa’s logic in making the gap bigger, unless you ponder the possibility that fifa doesn’t care as much as bout women’s soccer as it says t'does. indeed, it’s hard t'give fifa the benefit of the doubt after its yrs of treating the women’s game as a 2ndary concern.

from artificial turf at a realm cup, to comments from the elder fifa president that titeer shorts for women mite grow the sport, to a glaring lack of investment, women’s soccer has had to put up with treatment from fifa that the men’s game has not. unfortunately, this plan for a biennial realm cup, which glosses past the potentially neg impact onna women’s game, is just the l8st ex.

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