FIFA is rolling out a global strategy to grow the women’s game in advance of next year’s World Cup in France.
Soccer’s governing body has been ramping up its attention to the women’s side of the sport for the past several years, partly in response to calls for more equity.
The result is a five-pronged proposal that starts at the ground level among FIFA’s 211 member associations, FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman said.
“I think we’re trying to change the perception, that women’s football is not this kind of poor little sister waiting for the handout from the big brother of men’s football. We want to bring it into the mainstream,” Bareman said Wednesday.
“And it may be controversial to say this, but ultimately we’re trying to do ourselves out of a job here. And it may not happen in my tenure. But there shouldn’t be a need to have a Women’s Football Division inside FIFA. Because everybody in FIFA and across football’s governing bodies, should be looking at football as just football.”
The framework of the strategy launched Tuesday was approved by the FIFA Council last year and is linked with the FIFA 2.0 vision statement unveiled by Gianni Infantino in 2016 after he replaced Sepp Blatter as FIFA’s president.
Soccer’s governing body wants to see women’s participation double over 12 years to 60 million worldwide by 2026. A key component will be insuring all associations have comprehensive women’s plans in place by 2022.
The strategy also seeks to use the Women’s World Cup to drive growth.
FIFA last month pledged to “significantly increase” prize money. The U.S. earned US$2 million of a US$15 million pool for the 2015 tournament in Canada; France earned US$38 million of a US$400 million pool for its men’s title in Russia this summer.
Prize money for the 2019 women’s tournament is expected to be announced this month.
FIFA has been criticized for not yet committing to using video replay to assist referees at next year’s women’s tournament. Video Assistant Referees were used in the men’s World Cup for the first time in Russia. Bareman said a decision has not been made.
Some have also complained the women’s final July 7 is the same day as the Copa America final in Rio de Janeiro and the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in Chicago, which could take attention away from the women’s game.