Tag Archives: Women’s World Cup

Infantino’s Re-election Shows Little Has Changed With FIFA

Gianni Infantino at the 2018 World Cup held in Russia. Infantino was re-elected as FIFA president after running unopposed. He will serve until 2023. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Europe )

Infantino’s Re-Election Shows Little Has Changed With FIFA

On Wednesday, Gianni Infantino was re-elected as FIFA president for a second term. He won the bid with no opposition with the FIFA council opting to back him by acclamation. Infantino had this to say as leader of the organization:

…”a new FIFA, an organisation that is synonymous with credibility, confidence, integrity.”

– Infantino during his speech to FIFA’s 69th Congress on Wednesday, June 5, 2019.

Transparency and Voting

A link to FIFA’s key achievements between 2016 and 2019 can be found here. Outside of FIFA tooting their own horn, it is clear little has changed with FIFA from five years ago. Let’s start with this very election.

FIFA, claiming to be “more transparent”, did not even hold a vote for Infantino’s election. Sure, no one ran against him (why not?), but given recent events, holding a vote for this election would seem to be prudent to help build credibility. According to the New York Times (potential paywall), a statute was enacted just this week that allowed for the vote to be bypassed. Pretty convenient for a “transparent and credible” organization.

Speaking of votes, the Congress did test their voting and came up with this gem (per Rob Harris).

Not only did the voting test work improperly for some members (210 members voted, yet only 177 votes were deemed valid), 6 did not even know that this year’s Women’s World Cup was taking place in France. It begins on Friday. One could surmise this is a step towards transparency by even showing this blunder, but it does not really make FIFA look any better.

Alternative Facts

Here is another quote from Infantino’s address to Congress:

“This organization went from being toxic, almost criminal to what it should be — an organization that develops football, an organization that cares about football,” Infantino said. “We have transformed it into a new FIFA — an organization which is synonymous with credibility, trust, integrity, equality, human rights.”

Infantino during his speech to FIFA’s 69th Congress on Wednesday, June 5, 2019.

By “almost criminal” does he mean completely corrupt? Surely, he does. And doesn’t being corrupt mean being criminal? There’s no almost about it.

The part about being “an organization that cares about football” is true. Especially when it comes to money. According to FIFA’s own press release, the reserves increased to $2.745 billion while a new record in revenue was reached in 2018 with $6.421 billion as a result of the 2018 World Cup. If my assets increased by 50% over the previous cycle, I’d definitely care about the sport too.

The last part – the one about synonymity with credibility, trust, integrity, equality, and human rights – is a lot to unpack. FIFA hardly evokes positive thoughts and certainly none of the ones referenced by Infantino will be at the top of the list. One only needs to read through the Wikipedia entry on the 2015 Corruption Case to see how wrong that statement is.

We have now established that credibility, trust, and integrity are, in fact, not synonymous with FIFA. Let’s move onto equality and human rights.

Equality

What is FIFA’s definition of equality? The “unprecedented” 20% of FIFA committee members now being women? The requirement that there must be at least 1 woman per confederation on the FIFA Council? Or what about the five games being held in Paris, yet the advertisement shown below is from September 2018 for the men’s French national team?

The 2019 Women’s World Cup features $30 million in prize money distributed to the nations, which is double the amount paid in 2015. $400 million was distributed at the 2018 World Cup.

The world’s top female soccer player, Ada Hegerberg, has not played for Norway in two years as she battles for equality in the Nordic country. She has decided to skip this year’s World Cup, which will take some shine off the upcoming tournament.

Hegerberg’s fight is just one of several around the world for equal pay between the men’s and women’s teams including the United States and Australia.

In fairness to FIFA, the revenues generated from the men’s World Cup far exceed the women’s World Cup, which leads to the observed disparity in prize money. It makes sense from an overall revenue standpoint that men would get paid more. Moreover, the relatively recent introduction of the women’s tournament plays a part in the smaller revenues (2019 will be only the 8th edition of the Women’s World Cup).

But…

Given the surging popularity and growth of the women’s game in the last decade, it would make sense for FIFA to provide more money. In fact, given FIFA’s strong desire to acquire money, they ought to grow the women’s game faster to reap higher revenues sooner.

Furthermore, increasing the prize pool to draw ought to bring more women into the sport with a higher wage. Higher prizes equals more competition, in turn leading to higher quality matches. This results in higher revenues/prize money and (hopefully) a virtuous cycle that leads to equality between the men’s and women’s games.

Human Rights

Finally, we reach the human rights aspect. Minky Worden has a Twitter thread linking articles detailing the failed attempt to expand the 2022 World Cup beyond Qatar’s borders.

Why on earth did FIFA want to expand the 2022 World Cup from 32 to 48 teams given the extensive human rights issues? One can probably figure out the billion$ of rea$on$ to ignore all the crimes.

For those wanting background on the human rights issues plaguing Qatar, Tifo Football has a good video on the topic, which is presented below.

As much as Gianni Infantio would like us to believe that FIFA has evolved, it has not.

What Hurt the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

The artificial turf did not stop the US Women's National Team from winning the 2015 Women's World Cup. ( Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
The artificial turf did not stop the US Women’s National Team from winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup. ( Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)

What Hurt the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

By most measures, the 2015 Women’s World Cup was an astounding success. Ratings were up for television and there was plenty of exciting action. Nearly every game in the knockout stage was competitive and had some kind of exciting finish whether it was a late goal or a close game throughout. Some teams crashed out earlier than expected (Canada) while others upset their way deep into the tournament (China and England).

However, despite all the positives there were several instances where the Women’s World Cup failed to live up to expectations or was downright ridiculous. Those examples will be listed below.

1. The Referees

For the most part, many people were enthralled by the product on the field between whichever two teams were playing (except this guy). There was one on-field part of the game that really took away from the excellent contests and that was the refereeing, or lack thereof.

Yours truly documented several cases of the referees not calling fouls, penalties given despite fouls occurring outside the box (USA vs Germany), and goal kicks given instead of corner kicks among many other issues. What is so striking about the referees is that these were determined to be the best in the world. (To be fair, there are plenty of gripes about the referees and officials in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, Premier League, etc.).

That is a scary thought, but the World Cup deserves better. Why not use men to referee during the World Cup? Yes, this is a Women’s tournament, but it does not mean that men could not handle the job if they are qualified. It can be a few sets of male referees and assistants while keeping the majority of referees on the field females as one idea for the future.

Or FIFA can provide better training to the female referees and assistants. Given what we have learned in the past few months, that does not appear likely to be anywhere on the radar of FIFA.

2. “The Turf”

One of the biggest gripes this author has about the 2015 Women’s World Cup is the turf. This is not focused on how the turf plays, but rather the incessant complaining from Fox’s commentators about the turf.

This is not surprising that Fox did not like the turf being used considering many star players, including USA star Abby Wambach, sued FIFA in September 2014 over the turf. The lawsuit was withdrawn this past January, but that did not stop Fox from endlessly complaining about the turf (noted here) It was so bad that at one point a Fox analyst said the turf melted shoes.

It was known in 2011 that Canada would host the Women’s World Cup and the bid included artificial turf at nearly all of the venues. As this author documented in this article, this was a lack of foresight from the players to wait until September 2014 to file a lawsuit.

To be fair, the talk regarding turf was not nearly noticed as much in the latter stages of the tournament as it was at the beginning. Still, the fact it came up nearly ever game in the group stage makes it hard to listen to the game at times.

In the end, the turf did not matter as noticed in the final with the US crushing Japan 5-2. Whatever you want to call this tournament on the turf (an experiment?), it is now over and ultimately had little effect on the outcome.

3. The Analysts

This reason is purely personal, but accuracy is important from commentators and analysts alike.

Despite Fox’s non-stop complaining about the turf (see above), there was another area that really hurt Fox’s coverage. That was the analysts and specifically the mistakes they made. There are a ton of examples that prove Fox needs to provide better analysts.

One of the more egregious mistakes was that Rob Stone stated Canada never made the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup. That would make sense if 2003 never happened when Canada did make the semifinals.

Another analyst made the comment that French midfielder Claire Lavogez was gassed against Germany in the quarterfinal match despite coming on in the 69th minute. It did not make any sense at the time given the context of the game to that point.

One host referred to the extra 30 minutes of soccer as “overtime” instead of extra time. When trying to grow a sport like soccer the terminology is important. Imagine telling a person with no knowledge of College Football that two teams are going to sudden death extra time. (FYI, college football does not have any timed downs and each team is given a chance to score).

Even the usually excellent JP Dellacamera had a lapse in the USA versus Germany game. When Celia Sasic was awarded a penalty in the 60th minute, Dellacamera said it was the decisive moment in the match despite another 30 minutes remaining. It was not decisive, as the US would go on to score twice to win the match 2-0.

In the final between the USA and Japan, Dellacamera said the sun might have played a part in Hope Solo not seeing a shot. However, there was no direct sunlight on Solo in the latter part of the second half when the comment was made.

Another announcing flub was the own goal by England’s Laura Bassett versus Japan. When she accidentally put the ball in her own net, the announcers were completely flabbergasted as to what happened and did not appear to know what even happened. It was not until the Japan players celebrated that they were able to fully comprehend what happened and even the graphics department did not put up Japan’s second goal until well after the ensuing kickoff. For people who are supposed to tell the audience what has happened, that was a massive mistake.

Also in the USA versus Germany game, one of the commentators, Tony DiCicco said, “That Carli Lloyd was having a massive game“. However, DiCicco brought up accolades from the games against China and Colombia, which did not fit the argument of only the Germany game.

4. FIFA

Not a lot of time will be spent on this because, well, it is FIFA after all. This article by Tim Booth sums up what FIFA did wrong.

5. Availability of Some Games

This was not a big problem for the games in the knockout stages, but the group stages did not have all the games available depending on the television providers. For example, if a game was shown on Fox Sports 2 and you did not have that channel via your provider, you could not watch the game on a mobile device or tablet.

This comes down to Fox and the providers, which undoubtedly makes both sides to blame. Only the group stage was affected, but imagine a major tournament in the future (Euro 2016 or the men’s World Cup in 2018) not showing all the games of the group stage.

It should not be that way for any major tournament, men’s or women’s.

Conclusion

The tournament was a huge success for the advancement of women’s soccer and its popularity. We will not have to worry about the 2019 tournament being played on turf, as it will be on grass in France (Yay! No more complaining about the turf). We will have to deal with Fox having the rights (No!), but within four years the availability of the Fox Sports channels across most providers should be settled (hopefully).