FIFPro warns ‘fragile’ women’s game could be a long term casualty of Covid-19

By Samindra Kunti

April 17 – World players’ union FIFPro has warned that the women’s game faces an “existential threat” as football’s global shutdown due to the coronavirus will upend the sport’s finances. 

In a report, FIFPro highlighted weaknesses of the women’s game that could be exposed by the shutdown. The union argues that the game will need specific measures to combat the crisis because professional leagues are less established, salaries are lower and sponsorship deals smaller.  If not, the game could stall.

“It has been on an upward trend, but a positive trend can still be quite fragile,” said FIFPro’s general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann. “We do see a threat that certain programmes will shut down or not see the same attention as before. The long-term consequences [of the pandemic] in terms of the equality and the diversity in our game could be much harder hit on the women’s side.”

In 2019, women’s football enjoyed global attention and widespread growth following a bumper edition of the Women’s World Cup in France, but due to the outbreak of the coronavirus this summer’s Olympic women’s tournament in Tokyo has been postponed. The event remains one of the most high-profile competitions in the women’s game as teams, unlike their male counterparts, field their senior players.

The future of next year’s European championship, Euro 2021, is also in doubt as it will clash with the postponed Olympic Games.

“There are a couple of concrete risks,” said Baer-Hoffmann. “One is a stalling of the investment we’ve recently seen – we need to still keep building up investment in women’s football to sustain professional development.”

The report details the specific concerns women’s players are facing in the coronavirus crisis, highlighting mental and physical well-being as well as financial uncertainty.

The union suggests a number of actions to protect the game, including “special financial measures”,  calling for the creation of global industry standards in women’s football.

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