There's no question that the FIFA World Cup is big business. We all know at least one person that planned for years to travel to Brazil for this year's tournament, and it would be fair to say that an estimated 75 percent of our family and friends are arranging their daily schedules around game times this month.
And why not? It’s the World Cup — it only comes around every four years! It’s a celebration!
Albeit not a very inclusive one.
If it were truly a global game, it’d be called the FIFA Men’s World Cup — because women aren’t playing.
They get to play next year, at a completely different time, in a completely different country.
And their tournament will be “appropriately” titled the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
You see, FIFA doesn’t need to specify about this year’s 2014 World Cup in Brazil — as the main event, it’s already assumed to be the men’s competition.
While FIFA claims that women’s soccer is growing, the organization is not doing much to improve worldwide gender equality in the media.
For one thing — with all the games I’ve watched so far and all the marketing I’ve seen for this year’s event in Brazil — I was not even aware of the FIFA’s Women’s World Cup in Canada next year.
So if FIFA isn’t doing much to promote it in the media, stereotypes challenging femininity continue to persist, corporate sponsorship is nearly nonexistent, sales are inevitably lower … and women’s soccer remains much less valuable than men’s.
If the numbers have anything to prove, nothing seems likely to change.
The Men’s World Cup in South Africa in 2010 — which brought in $3.7 billion in sales according to Bloomberg — had about 3.2 million fans in attendance.
The Women’s World Cup in Germany in 2011 — widely championed as the best so far — had a record 845,711 fans.
And while 176 women competed for $7.6 million during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, this year 352 men will compete for $35 million in prize money.
Sure, the number of women soccer players is half that of the men, but last I checked, $7.6 million is not half of $35 million…
The numbers are so abysmal that women’s soccer teams are struggling just to be able to qualify. The Jamaica Football Federation even started an online crowdfunding initiative to raise the money for training camps, nutrition, travel and housing for its women’s team to attend the 2015 World Cup qualification tournaments.
They reached $155,685 out of a desired $750,000 — and the qualifying tournaments have already started.
FIFA clearly needs to reinvest the money it’s making from this year’s highly successful Men’s World Cup in Brazil into increasing soccer programs for women and girls around the world, strengthening existing organizations, creating more opportunities for the advancement of women in sports, and most importantly, showcasing women’s soccer as the valuable, worth-watching event that it is.
Then, and only then, will women soccer players receive the recognition they’ve worked just as hard for — and, dare I say, harder — than the men reaping in all the glory this year.
Also, if you happen to be traveling to Brazil to see the games this year, be sure to stop by the Football for Equality Plaza in Rio de Janeiro.
Opened a little over a week ago by FIFA’s five-time woman player of the year Marta Vieira da Silva — who left Brazil for greater opportunities in Sweden — the exhibition details 100 years of women’s football in Brazil.
“Women on The Pitch” also highlights how soccer can help transform perceptions, spur social change and alter the fates of women who already face discrimination in their home countries, both on and off the field.
Itinerary worthy, for sure.
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