FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said he only wants to talk about positive things during the Women’s World Cup after being asked about prize money issues and the pay gap to the men’s game.
Infantino also seized the moment at a news conference on Wednesday to joke about his bizarre speech at the men’s World Cup in Qatar, admitting to reporters that: ‘Today, I feel tired.’
In November, the FIFA president’s extraordinary monologue saw him make headlines after saying: ‘Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker.’
But on Wednesday, after arriving in New Zealand, Infantino said: ‘It’s a great moment to be here. For those of you who are waiting to hear how I feel today… today I feel tired because I have just landed. But I feel very happy.’
While the 53-year-old revealed he was happy to be there, he insisted on keeping the mood that way when he was met with questions about the gender pay disparity in the women’s game – a day before the tournament kicks off Down Under.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino shuts down all ‘negative’ talk about Women’s World Cup
World Cup hosts Australia criticised the disparity in World Cup prize money to the men’s game
England Women have put talks with the FA over their bonuses on hold until after the World Cup
It comes after Australia women’s side criticised the difference in World Cup prize money to the men’s game, while England have been at odds with the Football Association over bonuses, with the Lionesses now putting talks on hold so they can focus on the tournament.
‘Today is the eve of the opening game of the Women’s World Cup and for me it’s a moment to focus on the positives,’ Infantino added.
‘Until the August 20 [date of the final] you will only hear positive things from me about everything and everyone and if somebody is still not happy about something then I am so sorry.
‘As of August 21 we focus on some other issues around the world. We will deal with all the problems coming up. But seriously we have made important steps and made a path.’
Infantino could also make no guarantee that the member federations will distribute the £24,000 ($30,000) payments promised to every player at the World Cup.
He said that he’s engaging with member federations on the issue, with the payments made to the national federations, which are expected to pay the players.
However, there is no mechanism to directly pay the players the money, which could be life-changing for some.
Infantino bizarrely joked about his Qatar monologue in his press conference on Wednesday
‘We are moving of course in the right direction, we have been consulting with associations, with players, to try to go in the right path,’ Infantino said. ‘We have issued these recommendations, but we have an association of associations.
‘So whatever payments we do, we will go through the associations and then the associations will, of course, make the relevant payments to their own players. We are in touch with all the associations.’
FIFA had previously confirmed that the 732 players participating in the World Cup will be paid at least £24,000 each. The paycheck rises if teams do well, with each player for the winning team earning £200,000 ($270,000).
Infantino said there are complications including residency and taxation that are best handled by federations.
The payment is significant for many players: the average annual salary worldwide for women who play professionally is £10,000 ($14,000).
FIFA’s agreement means that half of the total World Cup prize money fund of £84million ($110m) will be paid to the players in the 32 teams. The prize pool is more than three times the £23m ($30m) prize fund FIFA paid out at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
The 2023 Women’s World Cup gets underway on Thursday with both co-hosts involved
The global players’ union, known as FIFPRO, helped push FIFA to dedicate a percentage of the prize money to the players themselves. The union sent a letter to FIFA in October on behalf of players from 25 national teams calling for more equitable conditions and prize money.
However, the prize money fund is still far below the £339m ($440m) paid to the men who played in the World Cup last year in Qatar. Infantino said the goal is to equalize the prize money by the 2026 men’s World Cup and the 2027 women’s edition.
Infantino said the Women’s World Cup is expected to generate a half-billion dollars in revenue and the organization will break even. For the first time, the commercial rights for the Women’s World Cup were sold separately from the men’s tournament.
The tournament opens Thursday with both co-hosts involved. New Zealand will play Norway in Auckland, and Australia will take on Ireland in Sydney.