FIFA is planning the ‘equal pay path’ at the Women’s World Cup, but prize money still accounts for 25% of the men’s pot in 2023


FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses the media during a press conference ahead of the FIFA Congress March 16, 2023 in Kigali, Rwanda. (Photo by Tom Dulat via Getty Images)

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who is embarking on a long-overdue “path” towards equality, announced on Thursday that the “ambition” and “goal” of the global governing body of football is equal prize money at the men’s and women’s World Cups in 2026 and 2027 to forgive.

Infantino also said that in the short term, players and staff at the 2023 Women’s World Cup would receive the “same conditions” and benefits as the men in 2022. well beyond the $60 million previously promised by Infantino.

However, the new $110 million pot still accounts for just 25% of the $440 million paid out to the 32 national football associations that competed in the 2022 Men’s World Cup, despite the two tournaments matching the number greeted by teams.

The $31 million in pre-season funds and $11 million in club benefits promised by FIFA in connection with the 2023 Women’s World Cup are also significant jumps from previous years – but still pale in comparison to the $70 million Dollars in preparation costs and $310m in club benefits tied to the 2022 men’s tournament. (These figures were confirmed by a FIFA spokesman on Thursday.)

The prize money gap, criticized by women’s footballers and advocates, has for decades prompted every football governing body worldwide to invest an outsized chunk of its resources in the success of men’s national teams.

The money goes directly to these associations. Some players’ unions have negotiated a share of this with their federations, but it has never been explicitly players’ 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 $358 million share if their men’s team qualified for the 2014 World Cup and a share of just $15 million if their women’s team qualified for the 2015 World Cup. A decade earlier, prior to 2007, there was no financial reward at all for success at the Women’s World Cup.

FIFA, a non-profit organization, has never provided an on-record justification for the inequality. Some have justified this by pointing to the commercial appeal of the men’s tournament. But until recently, FIFA sold the broadcasting and sponsorship rights to the men’s and women’s World Cups as a package; it could never actually point to an inequality of revenue. In addition, critics argued, FIFA’s lack of investment in women’s football, together with its unwillingness to incentivize investment at the national level, was a key reason for the underperforming of the Women’s World Cup on an audience and commercial level.

But now the tide is turning.

Players and some associations, led by the stars of the US women’s national team, have increased public pressure on FIFA to right the wrongs over the past decade. Last October, FIFPRO, an umbrella organization representing men’s and women’s players worldwide, wrote to FIFA on behalf of 150 women players from 25 different countries to “demand a level playing field and conditions for the men’s and women’s FIFA World Cups, including equality prize money.”

They argued in the letter, which Emox News received, that the prize money “has a strong impact on how countries will disproportionately prioritize their efforts to support the men’s national team over the women’s national team. It also perpetuates the attitude that women’s football is an ‘expense’ rather than a contribution to football in some parts of the world. This is because equal effort and performance does not bring equal reward. We want our Performance matters and it matters not just to us, but to the entire football family, in our countries and around the world.”

Apparently FIFA has been listening – to the players and to a growing choir around the world, particularly in Europe and North America.

Infantino wrapped up FIFA’s annual congress in Rwanda on Thursday by setting out what he described as a three-stage ‘journey’ towards equal pay and beyond. Step 1 was already done, or at least promised: In 2023, for the first time, FIFA will offer women’s teams dedicated base camps and other amenities, travel accommodation and facilities on par with those at men’s World Cups. (That’s what it’s called, anyway.)

Step 2 is the significant increase in prize money. In the announcement, Infantino also stated that the $110 million – most of which, likely around $10 million, will go to the champion, the smallest portions to the 16 teams eliminated in the group stage – partly allocated to associations for investment in youth football and partly directly to players.

This was an important point in the FIFPRO letter. “A lot of players don’t have an agreement with theirs [federations] to ensure they receive fair and equitable treatment, including guaranteed World Cup compensation, such as part of the World Cup prize money,” it said. The players demanded “a global guarantee of at least 30% of the prize money”. Infantino said discussions on the exact scheme are ongoing.

“Now comes step 3, the most difficult, the most complicated step, the step that will take longer,” Infantino concluded. Step 3 is to overcome the decades of neglect that have left women’s football behind men’s football commercially.

In order to start this catching-up process, FIFA developed a new marketing concept for women’s football last year and started to sell sponsorship and broadcasting rights for the Women’s World Cup separately. His goal, Infantino said, is to “have equal payments for the 2026 Men’s and 27 Women’s World Championships.”

Of course, FIFA could now match the payments if it wanted to – there’s no direct link between revenue and prize money – but Infantino argued he needed companies and broadcasters on board too.

He chided media outlets, and in particular “public broadcasters in big countries” for criticizing FIFA’s inequalities while offering far less money in negotiations over women’s World Cup rights than they currently pay for men’s World Cup quotas.

“We must all be on the same page,” Infantino said. “FIFA will do their part. We’ve already started. [We need] others to do the same.”

“FIFA reinforces itself with actions, not just words,” he added. And while there was no binding promise, nothing firm about his commitment to equal pay in 2026 and 2027, many believed it was real.

“Significant progress has been made on the terms, prize money and prize money redistribution for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023,” FIFPRO said in a statement hours later. While acknowledging that details were yet to be confirmed, she said: “The advancements announced today demonstrate the intention of players and FIFA to proactively work towards more justice and equality for the industry.”

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