Amidst the Nigerian dispute and other challenges faced by women’s football teams, FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman emphasised the crucial need for national football associations to adequately support their women’s teams. Speaking at the Leaders sports business conference in London, Bareman underscored that for female players to reach their full potential, consistent backing from associations and clubs throughout the year is imperative.
The recent Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand saw several teams embroiled in disputes with their respective football associations, creating a cloud over the tournament’s buildup. England overcame a bonus dispute to reach the final, while Canada and Nigeria have longstanding disagreements with their federations. Jamaica even resorted to crowdfunding for preparation expenses before participating in the tournament.
The winners, Spain, had been in conflict with the Spanish Federation (RFEF) over coaching methods and training practices, culminating in a controversy involving the former RFEF president and a player during the medal ceremony in Sydney. Coach Jorge Vilda was subsequently sacked, and the president resigned.
Bareman, a former Samoa player, stressed the necessity of providing female players with a conducive environment and consistent support as professional athletes. She highlighted FIFA’s efforts in equalizing levels of support for women’s teams during the World Cup, including business-class travel, single hotel rooms, and equal delegation sizes comparable to the men’s World Cup.
“It’s very simple. You know, we did it at this World Cup, we (FIFA) equalised all of the levels of people and service levels for those efforts,” she stated. Bareman emphasised the importance of extending this support beyond the World Cup to the day-to-day club and league environments.
FIFA, for the first time, provided women’s teams at the recent World Cup with the same levels of support as the men’s tournament the previous year. The tournament expanded from 24 to 32 teams, recorded unprecedented crowds and generated over $570 million in revenue. Although the total prize purse for the Women’s World Cup was increased to $152 million, it still falls significantly short of the $440 million awarded to the men in Qatar.
Bareman acknowledged the challenge of balancing the growth of women’s football in less developed nations with poor governance while maximising opportunities for top-ranked nations. She emphasised the importance of strong administrative structures to ensure that progress on the pitch is sustained, particularly in developing countries where talent and passion abound.