By Graham Dunbar/AP Sports Writer
The Women’s World Cup is getting an increase in prize money of more than 300% for this year’s tournament.
The $152 million fund for the first 32-team tournament — covering prize money, team preparation and payments to players’ clubs — is a huge boost from the 24-team edition in 2019, and 10 times what it was in 2015.
Some of the $110 million in pure prize money should be dedicated to paying players, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Thursday in Rwanda after being re-elected by acclamation through 2027.
Players’ union FIFPRO said Thursday it has challenged FIFA to secure a “global guarantee of at least 30% of prize money” that is paid to players.
FIFA also said the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand won’t be sponsored by the Saudi Arabian tourism authority. Talks about a possible deal had caused unease among players and the tournament co-hosts.
Government and World Cup organizers in both host countries had questioned if the deal with Visit Saudi would be appropriate for the women’s tournament, especially given Saudi Arabia’s record on women’s rights. Among the players urging FIFA to rethink it, United States forward Alex Morgan said the proposal was “bizarre.”
Infantino called the dispute a “storm in a teacup” and said extending the Visit Saudi deal, which started at the men’s World Cup in Qatar, was a discussion that “didn’t lead into a contract.”
“There is a double standard here which I really don’t understand,” the FIFA president said, aiming a barb at critics of the deal.
He said Australian companies had export trade to Saudi Arabia worth $1.5 billion each year and “this doesn’t seem to be a problem or an issue.”
The Australian soccer federation said in a statement it welcomed FIFA clarifying the Visit Saudi speculation.
“Equality, diversity and inclusion are really deep commitments for Football Australia,” chief executive James Johnson said, “and we’ll continue to work hard with FIFA to ensure the Women’s World Cup is shaped in this light.”
Infantino also again expressed his anger with broadcasters for offering too little for TV rights. He said FIFA will not sell broadcast rights for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand at the prices currently being offered
“Women deserve much, much more than that and we are there to fight for them and with them,” he said.
Female players worldwide have been fighting for equal pay and equal respect with men’s national teams, including the defending champion United States, Canada, France and Spain.
Infantino set a target of equal prize money for men and women at their next World Cups, in 2026 and 2027, respectively — a tough task when the 32 men’s teams shared $440 million at last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
The FIFA president angrily targeted broadcasters, some of them public service channels funded by taxpayers, who he said offered up to 100 times less for rights to the women’s tournament.
Infantino first raised the issue in October in New Zealand, and insisted FIFA still would not sell at those prices with women’s soccer drawing audiences perhaps 20-50% less than for men’s games.
“Well, offer us 20% less, 50% less. But not 100% less,” Infantino said in closing remarks to the FIFA Congress. “That’s why we can’t do it.”