The USA women’s team are taking home the FIFA soccer World Cup, after claiming victory over Netherlands in the final.
During the celebrations, however, loud booing could be heard around the stadium as the FIFA President Gianni Infantino arrived onto the field to present the trophy.
World soccer’s governing body is now finding itself dragged into the dispute over equal pay between the men’s and women’s game, as the crowd at the stadium in Northern France chanted “equal pay” in support of the women’s efforts.
Ahead of Sunday’s final, Infantino proposed doubling the total prize money of the World Cup to $60 million for the next event in 2023, but that figure would still fall way short of the men’s edition in Russia last year, featuring 32 teams, that had a total prize money pot of $400 million.
That amount will rise to $440 million for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.
“It certainly is not fair,” said U.S. forward Megan Rapinoe, who scored the opening goal in the final. “We should double it now and then use that number to double it or quadruple it for the next time. That’s what I mean when I talk about do we feel respected?,” she told a pre-final news conference.
FIFA has committed to renewed investment in the women’s game, insisting $1 billion (up from $0.5bn) would be spent over the next four-year cycle, but given how well this World Cup has been received, female players believe they deserve better.
“No, I don’t think that we feel the same level of respect, certainly that FIFA has for the men, and just in general,” said Rapinoe.
FIFA has been justifiably proud of the large World Cup attendances, with stadia over 75% full throughout and a crowd of 57,900 watching the final in Lyon. TV audiences have also been positive, with an estimated 1 billion fan engagements worldwide (up from 750 million in 2015) and despite defeat for England in the semi-final to the USA, it still attracted the highest viewing figure on British TV this year.
Also, England’s Women’s Super League (WSL) is about to begin its second fully professional season and will have Barclays as its title sponsor, as part of a $12.5 million deal. It has also been boosted with the introduction of Manchester United’s women’s team for the new season.
Spain’s most successful soccer team Real Madrid has also recently announced plans to incorporate an affiliated women’s team in the 2020/21 season.