FIFA 2015, myth, equality and women’s football

The progressive march of women’s football offers a different story from that of corruption, governance and the FIFA arrests of May 2015.

The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup takes place in Canada from 6th June.

10 key facts at June 2015

  • 30 million participants world wide and growing
  • FIFA global investment in women’s football, in one year, amounted to $38,934,824 US
  • Estimated economic impact of $337 across Canada
  • 1991 inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup
  • 2015 twice as many teams have qualified when compared to 1991
  • 1795 reference to a women’s football match, Musselburgh, Scotland
  • The FIFA Women’s World Cup is the largest single sporting event in the world for women
  • 8 FIFA Presidents since 1904, one more to be elected, all men and the co-option of women onto the FIFA Executive Committee did not occur until 2012/13
  • At June 2015 Germany was top of the FIFA Women’s Rankings which are made up from 138 countries
  • Since 2008 FIFA have targeted have targeted, grassroots development programmes for women in Jordan, Syria, Myanmar, North Korea, Eritrea and Palestine to name but a few places.

Myth no 1: Women’s football is not global

 While 12 teams competed in 1991, 24 teams, from six confederations [Africa, Asia, Europe, North, Central America and the Caribbean, Oceania and South America], qualified for the event in Canada: USA, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, England, France, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, China, Japan, Republic of Korea and the hosts Canada.

The FIFA Women’s World rankings include 138 countries and of the teams ranked in the top 20 in the world only Italy and Iceland will not be present in Canada.

 Myth no 2: Women’s football is not popular

 The 2014 FIFA survey indicates that women’s football has more than 30 million participants worldwide and that FIFA is responsible for the largest sporting event in the world for women.

We regularly hear that in the USA more women play football than men.

The number of registered players is estimated to be about 4,801,360.

 In absolute terms, Turkey (46,353) and the Netherlands (11,734) have shown the biggest increase in the number of players.

Europe (UEFA) recorded 1,208,558 registered female players in 2014.

FIFA indicate that the number of registered women players is 4,801,360.

 Myth no 3: Women’s football is new

 It is myth to suggest that women’s football is new, for clearly it is not.

  • 1795 One of the earliest references to a women-only football match is recorded near Musselburgh, Scotland.
  • 1881 Britain’s first recorded international women’s football match played in Edinburgh. A team representing Scotland beat one from England 3-0, with Lily St Clair scoring the opener.

The first FIFA Women’s World Championship was held in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1991, fulfilling a pledge made by then FIFA President João Havelange at the 1986 FIFA Congress in Mexico City.

The next hosts of the FIFA flagship competition for women were Sweden (1995), the USA (1999 and 2003), PRC (2007) and Germany (2011).

 Myth no 4: Women’s football has no economic impact

 The impact of major sporting events upon local economies is one of the popular arguments used by cities and governments to rationalize such events. The rationale should not be gender specific.

The Minister of Health and Regional Affairs for Northern Alberta, Rona Ambrose, noted that this is the first major sporting event hosted from coast to coast in Canada, with matches to be played in: Vancouver, British Columbia; Edmonton, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Ottawa, Ontario; Montreal, Québec; and Moncton, New Brunswick.

It is estimated to have an economic impact of $337 million across Canada.

Inequality continues to persist- for winning the FIFA Men’s World Cup Germany received £22 million while the winners in Canada will receive about £1.2 million.

Myth no 5: The FIFA Presidents men have championed equality

 FIFA maybe a multibillion-dollar organization with estimated reserves of $1.5 billion US dollars, govern the worlds most popular game, but since its foundation in 1904 all 8 Presidents have been men.

Yet the tipping point to opening up the possibility of further progressive change may have been triggered when US Attorney General Loretta Lynch ordered the arrests of top FIFA officials.

  • The co-option of women onto the FIFA Executive Committee did not occur until 2012/13

 In claiming to be global, football has to continue to press the case to avoid the charge of being football for some and not all.

It would be clearly be a further myth to accept that equality exists in world football for as current events clearly demonstrate it is inequitable, facing corruption charges, and in simple governance terms lacking in transparency, accountability, and levels of trust that football enthusiasts all over the world can buy in to.

Yet the progressive march of women’s football is impressive and is much needed in the aftermath of FIFA’s corruption scandal.

Read more about Sport, Inequality and Social Justice on the Academy of Sport’s website.

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