Daily Mail

Bold talk over equal pay is little more than a PR stunt

- By KATHRYN BATTE Women’s Football Correspond­ent

TODAY Gianni Infantino feels generous. on the day he was re- elected FIFA president unopposed, the 52-year-old announced the governing body’s desire for the women’s World Cup prize money to match the men’s by 2027. Importantl­y, this is a wish — not a promise.

The news yesterday that the total prize money for this year’s tournament will be trebled to £125million — for the men’s World Cup in Qatar it was £365m — was welcome and needed.

This is still a growing sport. If you don’t increase prize money you will never improve the quality of the product FIFA are desperate to market. And growing interest has fuelled FIFA’s ability to increase the prize pots.

‘Women deserve much, much more, and we are here to fight with them and for them. We need to fight together to achieve that,’ Infantino said.

But the idea of equal prize money in four years’ time is hugely ambitious and smacks of a marketing ploy from a president who knows he needs a PR win.

How can anybody trust a word Infantino says? This is a man who was happy for Saudi Arabia’s tourism body to sponsor this summer’s competitio­n, a move set to be abandoned following criticism from players because of the country’s appalling record on women’s rights.

Did he and FIFA have the best interests of the women’s game at heart when they effectivel­y endorsed the regime with that decision?

It is also telling that Infantino used the same speech to lambast broadcaste­rs for not making

reasonable financial offers to show matches at this year’s competitio­n.

‘FIFA are receiving between 10 and 100 times less from public broadcaste­rs for the women’s World Cup than the men’s World Cup. Do you think that is normal?’ Infantino said.

‘At the same time, these public broadcaste­rs, who are paid by taxpayers’ money, criticise FIFA for not guaranteei­ng equal pay to men and women.

‘You pay us 100 times less, but your viewing figures are very similar, maybe 20 to 25 per cent less — not 100 per cent less. Well, offer us 20 per cent less or 50 per cent less, but not 100 per cent less. How can we do it, otherwise?’

This is not about salaries paid by national FAs. The English FA pay the same to the men and the women (roughly £2,000 per game) and have done for three years.

But prize money is dictated by market forces. Infantino has a point in that the viewing figures for women’s tournament­s globally are increasing massively and there is clearly a demand to watch

games. But there has to be realism. England women’s Euro 2022 final win against Germany was watched by 17.4million people on the BBC. The men’s Euros final a year earlier was watched by 30.9million.

So market forces suggest broadcaste­rs will not bring in as much in advertisin­g from the women’s game and therefore will not offer as much to FIFA to show women’s matches.

of course, more investment increases the quality, which improves the product, which increases the revenue — there’s an element of chicken and egg.

But what about FIFA? They have money aplenty to funnel into the prize pots if they wanted. They don’t need to rely solely on broadcaste­rs or sponsors.

As for this summer’s World Cup, it is understand­able to expect British broadcaste­rs to offer less money for a tournament that will take place on the other side of the world in Australia and New Zealand, when some matches will kick off in the early hours of the morning here.

It is hard not to see Infantino’s

grand gesture as a way to deflect attention away from FIFA and on to broadcaste­rs. He offered no plan or explanatio­n as to how they will go about achieving his goal. It felt like lip service.

This speech also came after it was made public that players from England, and 24 other national women’s football teams, signed a letter to FIFA and Infantino in october calling for equal conditions and prize money at the World Cup this summer.

So it was timely, it makes it look like FIFA are listening. But the reality is they continue to be tone deaf.

The women’s game needs investment to continue to grow. That is not up for debate. But it does not, as it has tried to do many times before, need to run before it can walk.

The prize money for this summer’s World Cup had to increase significan­tly. Equality is the end goal, but achieving that in four years feels impossible.

As much as Infantino talks the talk, when it comes down to it, how hard will FIFA try to make that vision a reality?

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Glory days: 17.4million people tuned into the BBC for England’s Euros triumph last July
GETTY IMAGES Glory days: 17.4million people tuned into the BBC for England’s Euros triumph last July
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