Women’s World Cup sees bigger prize money for soccer stars but muted applause

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The 2019 Women’s World Cup is set to be the biggest since the birth of the tournament, with 24 countries competing at nine venues across the country and Lyon hosting the final. FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), the sport's international governing body, has increased the prize money but the applause is muted.

The tournament has doubled in size since the United States beat Norway at FIFA’S first formal World Cup, in China in 1991, a testament to the popularity of women’s soccer. FIFA has taken notice. In a speech titled The Power of Football at the G20 summit in 2018, FIFA president Gianni Infantino noted that soccer has “too often overlooked half the world’s population: the women. At the new FIFA we are determined to change this.”

Former player Gwendolyn Oxenham wrote in the New York Times in Dec 2018 that after decades of neglect, federations and clubs have poured money into the women’s game. “More and more women from around the world are able to make a living playing the sport. Some professional teams in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico are even offering college scholarships to their players.”

Julie Foudy, writing for ESPN, reports that FIFA has approved a doubling of the prize money for the Women’s World Cup to US $30 million, starting with the 2019 tournament. But she argues that the increase is not the boon that it seems because the prize money for the men’s tournament has increased, and the pay gap between women and men has actually widened. Foudy is a 17-year member – and 13-year captain – of the U.S. national women’s football team, with two World Cup wins and three Olympic medals to her name.

She criticized the scheduling of the Women’s World Cup Final on Jul 7 as particular evidence that FIFA cares about women’s soccer only “enough to be politically correct.” It competes for viewers on the same date with two huge global men’s finals, the Copa America final in South America and the Gold Cup final, involving teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean. Consider what this means for sponsors, media companies, audiences that don’t have the means or resources to cover or watch all three events. “Rather than making it easy for them to cover and consume the women’s game,” she pointed out, “FIFA is forcing a choice. When the market gets crowded, who do you think gets dumped off the docket? FIFA knows this.”

Match fixtures and the draw (FIFA)

You Should be watching Soccer (NYT Dec 2018)

Ahead of Women's World Cup draw, FIFA's actions speak louder than words (ESPN Dec 2018)

2019, World Cup fever No 2: England and Scotland go for glory in France (Guardian Jan 2019)

Date written/update: 2019-01-22