July 7 – Gianni Infantino’s attempt to gain the moral high ground by drawing on the success of the women’s World Cup backfired somewhat on Sunday when he was booed ahead of the World Cup final between the United States and Netherlands.
At a press conference before the final in Nice, Infantino declared that the prize money would be doubled to $60 million and that he would like the 2023 tournament to be expanded from 24 to 32 teams.
FIFA has so far received nine bids for the event, with the host nation due to be chosen by the FIFA Council in March 2020 but Infantino is suggesting re-opening the bid process to accommodate an additional eight teams.
“We have already more than doubled the prize money for the World Cup this year, but we will double it again for the next World Cup ‒ I am very confident that we can do that,” Infantino told reporters. “I want to expand the tournament to 32 teams. We will have to act quickly to decide if we are to increase it for 2023, if we do we should reopen the bidding process to allow everyone to have a chance or maybe co-host. Nothing is impossible.”
Infantino also repeated his idea of starting a Club World Cup for women. “It can be played every year to expose clubs all over the world. Clubs would invest even more in women’s football to shine on the world stage.”
Infantino’s offer to double the prize pot for 2023 gained little support among the American winners of the tournament – or amongst the watching public in Lyon. Whilst on paper it might look like a worthy gesture, the fact is the men’s prize pot is being increased by even more – from $400 million to $440 million.
Boos rang out from the stands at Sunday’s final, at first against French president Emanuel Macron but later at Infantino. ‘Equal pay, equal pay!’ chanted the US fans though it wasn’t 100% clear whether they were referring to the US team’s long-running dispute with their own national federation or global parity with men.
What was clear was that Infantino’s efforts to take some of the credit for beefing up the women’s game cut no ice with United States captain Megan Rapinoe who refused to allow him to get away with it.
Rapinoe also took aim at FIFA over the scheduling of two men’s continental competition finals on the same day as the Women’s World Cup final – the Copa America and Gold Cup,.
“It certainly is not fair,” Rapinoe said of the gap in prize money awarded at the men’s and women’s World Cups. “We should double it now and use that number to double it or quadruple it for the next time. That’s what I mean when we talk about, ‘Do we feel respected?'”
“Earlier in the year, a quote came out that I said, ‘FIFA doesn’t care about the women’s game,’ and that’s what I mean,” Rapinoe said. “If you really care about each game in the same way, are you letting the gap grow? No. Are you scheduling three finals on the same day? No. Are you letting some federations play two games in the four years between each tournament? No, you’re not.”
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