FIFA caps first women's conference with UN Women partnership

FIFA President Gianni Infantino delivers his speech during the 69th FIFA congress in Paris, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Hours ahead of his re-election unopposed, Infantino tells 211 member federations that today “nobody talks about crisis.” (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

PARIS — FIFA capped its first Women's Convention by announcing a partnership with UN Women to promote gender equity around the globe.

"Of course FIFA is an organization which has a mission to develop football all over the world, but we also know that FIFA has a social role as well," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said Friday at the conclusion of the two-day conference.

Infantino was joined by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, who noted: "Sports gives us multidimensional possibilities to advance gender equality."

UN Women is the United Nations' entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Infantino and Mlambo-Ngcuka signed a memorandum of understanding to signify the partnership between the two organizations. A more detailed plan will be announced at a later date, FIFA said.

It said both FIFA and UN Women recognize "the importance of close collaboration between public authorities, international organizations, the private sector, and media and sports organizations, both in respect of making sport activities more accessible to women and girls and in dissemination the diverse sport content that promotes gender equality."

The first Women's Football Convention was held in connection with the World Cup, which kicks off Friday in Paris with a match between host France and South Korea. Twenty-four teams will be competing over the next month for soccer's most prestigious trophy.

Infantino touched on several points during an address to the conference on Friday morning. He said that for the next four years, the governing body is dedicating $500 million to women's soccer. FIFA says that budget goes to the work of the women's soccer division, development programs, the World Cup and youth competitions, as well as funds allocated to the FIFA Forward program to the 211 member federations.

Infantino also pointed out that the total prize money for the Women's World Cup was raised from $15 million in 2015 to $50 million in France. The figure for this tournament includes club compensation and preparation money, which is being allocated for the first time.

Prize money has been controversial. The prize pool for the tournament in France is $30 million, with $4 million going to the champion. That's double the prize money that was awarded for the 2015 World Cup in Canada. But it is just a fraction of the $400 million in prize money for the 2018 men's World Cup. France, the men's winner, was awarded $38 million. The prize money for the 2022 men's World Cup in Qatar will be $440 million.

The Australian players' association launched a campaign this week that calls on FIFA to make the women's prize equal to the men's.

Infantino talked about the strides that FIFA has made since he became president of the organization in 2016, in the wake of a scandal. He pointed to the appointment of the first female secretary general of FIFA, Fatma Samoura, and the creation of the women's soccer division. He also noted that there are six women on the FIFA Council and women make up 20 percent of FIFA's committees.

"We are moving. We are progressing. We are trying," Infantino said. "We are making a step at each time."

He also said that he would revive previous plans for a Nations League for women that were put on hold.

Mia Hamm, a two-time world player of the year and two-time World Cup champion with the United States, spoke at the conference and emphasized that continued progress for the women's game is dependent on investment.

"This game has a place. This game is marketable. This game is beautiful. You just need to make the investment," she said.

Hamm pointed to the World Cup-winning 1999 U.S. team, which was responsible for an explosion of growth in the sport at home, when asked what she hoped comes from the 2019 World Cup in France.

"We need more investment for women's football," she said, "more money, more time, more stories — that four years from now you'll be hearing girls saying I watched 2019 France and it changed my life."


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