Market Insight: The Equalizer’s Snapshot of Women’s Soccer
Expectations for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup are, as ever, that it will be the best yet. How that status is achieved depends on which metric you wish to measure: quality of play on the field; attendance, sponsorship and TV revenue off the field.
All of those are fair game in assessing the legacy of the tournament. The 2015 edition of the Women’s World Cup in Canada was the first to feature 24 teams – up from 16 – and saw record interest in the form of 1.35 million fans in attendance and 750 million worldwide TV viewers, per FIFA. France 2019 is expected to be an even greater success because, like a successful, disruptive business, women’s soccer remains on an upward trajectory.
Perhaps the most important thing since the 2015 World Cup – and the most crucial element of the build-up to this 2019 edition – is the sustainability of the momentum in the women’s game.
Several national teams have fought with their federations to achieve improved working conditions and pay equitable to their male counterparts. The United States women’s national team led the charge. Norway set the new standard when the federation, in late 2017, struck a deal to pay its women the exact same amount as its men. The fight has trickled down to places like Denmark, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and even oft-overlooked federations such as Puerto Rico.
In a word, the movement requires sustainability. FIFA in October launched its first-ever global strategy for women’s soccer, laying out objectives for the coming decade to increase participation and investment in the sport.
The strategy calls for doubling the number of worldwide female players to 60 million by the year 2026, increasing commercial value of women’s soccer properties and mandating that all FIFA member associations have at least one woman on their executive committee by 2026 – in addition to ensuring the at least one-third of FIFA committee members will be women by 2022.
The entire strategy can be read here. FIFA also announced in October that it would double prize money from the 2015 Women’s World Cup to $30 million in 2019 and would pay out an additional $20 million in preparation money ($11.52 million) and club benefits ($8.48 million) to women’s teams for the first time.
It is welcomed news, but world players’ union FIFPro pointed out that gender pay gap has increased. The total pot for the Men’s World Cup went from $358 million in 2014 to $400 million in 2018, increasing the funding gap between the men’s and women’s showcase events to $370 million. France earned $38 million for winning the 2018 Men’s World Cup, more than the sum of the entire pot which will be shared by 24 women’s teams in 2019.
United States midfielder Megan Rapinoe was one of her team’s leaders in its fight with U.S. Soccer for improved working conditions, and she has been an active voice in fighting for equality globally. Her reaction, which was shared by many U.S. teammates, was that FIFA could still be doing much more.
“Fifteen million dollars is nothing to them,” Rapinoe said. “It could mean something to us. It’s a significant amount of money for the teams. Where are they even pulling these numbers from? If they just wanted to arbitrarily do it, they could increase it by $100 million, and wouldn’t miss it.
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