Women's football needs everyone's facts, after intentions

Women's football needs everyone's facts, after intentions

The promise comes from the Matildas, Australia's female soccer players: «Ours legacy is this: to leave to the girls who will come after us our shirt and the world of football in better conditions than when we started». Today, in Auckland, with New Zealand-Norway, the ninth edition of the Women's World Cup begins, the first with 32 teams. And it could be a new beginning.

Of course, England-Scotland on May 9, 1881, considered the first official match for women, dates back to prehistory but it starts from there, with the suffragette Helen Graham Matthews who organizes the match in support of the biggest struggles of the British feminist movement: access to the vote for women, new freedoms, including that of shelving the annoying corset, and the possibility of playing sports. Then, from the 1991 World Cup in China, wanted by the FIFA president at the time, João Havelange, to Australia-New Zealand 2023, a long way has come. The players no longer travel in economy class, they have hi-tech uniforms like their colleagues, trainers and medical staff following like real professionals. It has been a long journey, the ascent of a vertical wall, as the Matildas explain in their video, but the review that begins today has shown once again, how the words and good intentions dictated by politically correct now very common when it comes to women's sports, sometimes you miss the realization of those thoughts. In May, the World Cup was approaching, ticket sales were booming (1.35 million tickets already purchased, they had been 1.2 million in France) but the TV rights to broadcast the matches remained in limbo. Because, in December 2021, Fifa, led by Gianni Infantino, had decided to separate the sale of the broadcasting rights of the women's World Cup from the men's event. In May, all was silent. For this Infantino, with a post on Instagram, had raised his voice: "While broadcasters pay 100 to 200 million dollars for the men's World Cup, they only offer 1 to 10 million for the women's". Then, 130 broadcasters - including Rai which will broadcast 15 matches, including those of Milena Bertolini's girls - acquired the rights. Who, with sponsors and tickets, will support the women's football of the future. Romy Gai, Fifa's chief business officer, begins from Auckland: «There are signs of a turning point: some companies have chosen to sponsor only the girls, the 130 broadcasters offer the competitions in 200 countries, with the free Fifa+ platform we will cover the countries without rights, the Chinese of ShinaiTv will offer digital packages, the CazéTv platform will offer behind-the-scenes, TikTok has the rights to test paid content and radio coverage has grown sixfold , with 38 broadcasters buying only the girls' races, in France there were three. From the 1.2 billion cumulative audience in 2019 we will reach 2 billion».

The 2022 European Championship in England had already scored an important goal for the diffusion of women's football: 570 accredited journalists, over 60 broadcasters, more than 574,000 fans in the stands for the 31 matches (including 87,192 in the final between England and Germany at Wembley, a record), 365 million people in front of the TV (and as many as 50 million for the final), more than 450 million interactions on social media and for the EU makes 590 thousand new followers. On the wave of that event, the World Cup can make history. Fifa has contributed its own: prizes to the players of the World Cup (30,000 dollars for the group stage, 60,000 for the round of 16, 90,000 for those who reach the quarterfinals, 165,000 for 4th place, 180,000 for 3rd, 195,000 for 2nd and 270,000 for the players who will lift the cup). If we consider that, on average, an athlete playing in national championships earns $14,000 a year, the difference is striking. The federations will be awarded significant sums: from 1.56 million dollars for the group stage up to 4.29 million for the world champion federation, for a total of 152 million. Also in this case, the comparison with the 50 million dollars of France 2019, although a very successful edition with the USA of Megan Rapinoe at the top, is merciless. Australia-New Zealand will be worth three times France 2019 and ten times the prize money of Canada 2015.

The machine towards equalization runs to fill gaps and prejudices, even if it is good to remember - for an objective evaluation - that women's football must detach itself from the reasoning (and values) of the men's one, otherwise we will continue to compare them and it will always be a loser. As demonstrated by the TV rights affair (on which the TVs were lukewarm because the matches with the time zone will be broadcast in the European morning when advertising sales don't shine, even if the increase in audience on a single band will then count), until all the players involved - institutions, federations, TVs, sponsors - follow up on the good intentions and compliments for the girls who score goals, the facts, the equalization will remain only a long-dreamed-of victory. And out there, meanwhile, society screams its contemporaneity and there are thousands of girls who dream of becoming Cristiana Girelli or Laura Giuliani. By the way, good luck to our Azzurre!

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