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You first, Gianni Infantino
The FIFA president said equal prize money at the World Cup "would not solve anything." He's wrong.
We’re two days away from the Women’s World Cup final, and to mark the occasion, FIFA president Gianni Infantino spoke to reporters at the FIFA Women’s Football Convention.
Friends, he said so many things.
Per The Athletic, he boasted about how good FIFA’s decision was to expand the tournament from 24 to 32 teams. He said the tournament broke even by generating $570 million. He talked about how we need to see more professional women’s leagues across the world, which I agree with. He urged everyone from federations to sponsors to journalists to governments to invest more in women’s football, which would certainly be nice.
Then he decided to speak directly to the women in the audience, because apparently on this day, he was feeling sexist.
“With men, with FIFA, you will find open doors,” he said to the women. “Just push the doors. They are open. And do it also at national level, in every country, at continental level, in every confederation. Just keep pushing, keep the momentum, keep dreaming, and let’s really go for a full equality.
“Not just equal pay in the World Cup, which is a slogan that comes up every now and then. Equal pay in the World Cup, we are going in that direction already. But that would not solve anything. It might be a symbol but it would not solve anything, because it’s one month every four years and it’s a few players out of the thousands and thousands of players. We need to keep the momentum. We need to push it. We need to go for equality but we have to do it for real. And you, here in this room, all the women in this room, you have the power to do it. So believe in it.”
This. Fucking. Guy. The absolute audacity to tell women at the FIFA Women’s Football Convention that the only reason why there is not full equality is because they’re not knocking on the right doors or pushing hard enough or using their power?? The delirious depravity a man must possess to look a group of the most ardent advocates of women’s football in the eyes and tell them that *they* are the ones are responsible for fixing the problem of inequality in the sport? It’s too much to comprehend. In fact, I think I need to just talk directly to him.
Hey, Gianni? You first.
Seriously, I mean it. Before you try to gaslight a gender about who holds the power in this situation, you go first.
Because while I *might* agree that FIFA can’t fix equality in the sport all by itself, it can certainly do much, much more than it is doing right now.
Let’s start with the pay gap.
You say that giving equal prize money to the men’s and women’s tournaments would be “a symbol” that “would not solve anything.” But you’re dead wrong.
The current prize money gap between the men’s and women’s World Cups is $330 million. Do you know what would go a long way towards changing the women’s game forever? $330 million. That’s almost double what FIFA has paid out in prize money in every Women’s World Cup in history, combined.1 That would allow more players to commit to playing the game full time. That would encourage federations and governments all over the globe to invest more in the women’s game because they would want a cut of that prize money pool. And it would send a message — a “symbol,” if you will — to broadcasters and journalists and sponsors and partners that the women’s World Cup is exactly as important as the men’s World Cup, and that they need to step up their game.
You completely diminishes the importance of symbols in his address, but the truth is, they matter. A lot. When the NCAA finally allowed the women’s college basketball tournament to use the “March Madness” branding in 2022 — something they only did due to the nation-wide outrage that erupted after their mistreatment of women during the 2021 tournament — it helped the 2022 tournament become the most-covered women’s college basketball tournament in history. As Power Plays reported, the NCAA issued more than 30% more credentials at the 2022 tournament than it ever had before. In 2023, the tournament was by far the most-viewed women’s edition ever, drawing almost 10 million viewers for the final. “Symbols” matter.
While we’re on the subject, let’s review some of the symbolic messages FIFA has sent about women’s football over the years, shall we?
The first women’s football world championship was held in Italy in 1970. The second was hosted in Mexico in 1971. FIFA had absolutely nothing to do with either event. In fact, FIFA actively tried to squelch it. As noted in the book “Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America,” by Dr. Brenda Elsey and Dr. Joshua Nadel, FIFA sent a directive to the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) and banned them from holding the 1971 tournament.
The tournament went on, because women’s leagues across Mexico met and formed the Mexican Federation of Women’s Football (FMFF) to run the event, and booked stadiums outside of the FMF’s jurisdiction — Estadio Azteca and Estadio Jalisco — to host the games.
Without FIFA’s involvement, the tournament was a rousing success; about 110,000 people came to watch the final.
FIFA didn’t see this success and decide it should be nurtured. Instead, it issued directives to federations to withhold funding from women’s teams. FIFA didn’t officially hold a women’s tournament until 1988 when it held the FIFA Women’s Invitation Tournament, and didn’t host a Women’s World Cup until 1991. Even in 1991, it was hesitant to use the “World Cup” branding for women, so the tournament was officially called the 1st FIFA World Championship for Women's Football for the M&Ms Cup. What a symbol that was.
FIFA didn’t start offering prize money at the women’s World Cup until 2007. When outrage started to spread about the pay discrepancy between men and women in 2015, FIFA actually increased the pay gap between the 2014/15 and 2018/19 World Cup cycles. FIFA has said it’s on the path to equal pay for the 2026/27 cycle, but has offered no guarantees or specifics about how that will be achieved.
It has, though, set up the 2027 Women’s World Cup to fail — or, at least, to underperform. I mean, we don’t even know where the next Women’s World Cup is going to be! The 2026 men’s World Cup location was announced in 2018, eight years before the tournament. The host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup won’t be announced until May 2024, three years before the tournament kicks off. The difference between having eight years to plan for a mega event versus having just three years is astronomical.
Gianni, in your speech, you acted like FIFA has nothing at all to do with the current state of inequality between men’s and women’s football. In fact, FIFA is the primary driver of it. It intentionally created this chasm, and the only way to undo it is by taking intentional, actionable steps. Like, you know, making the prize money equal. Yesterday.
So sure, you can lecture Italy about sending dozens of journalists to the men’s World Cup and none to the women’s World Cup. You can scold broadcasters for not spending more money on the media rights for the tournament. And you can reprimand federations for ignoring their women’s programs. But all of it falls on deaf ears until you step up and show the way forward.
"And I say to all the women — and you know I have four daughters, so I have a few at home — that you have the power to change,” you said in your speech, somehow with a straight face. “Pick the right battles. Pick the right fights. You have the power to convince us men what we have to do and what we don't have to do. You do it. Just do it."
Okay, fine. I pick this fight. I’m knocking on this door. I’m standing in my power.
You do it, Gianni. Just fucking do it.
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FIFA didn’t start paying prize money for the Women’s World Cup until 2007. That year, the total prize money pool was $6 million. In 2011, it was $10 million. In 2015 it went up to $15 million. In 2019, it was $30 million. And this year it’s $110 million. That adds up to $171 million, though feel free to check my math, you all know how I am.