Just eight months removed from a financially successful FIFA Men’s World Cup in Brazil, FIFA now looks to stage the Women’s World Cup in Canada in June. In the build up to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, FIFA has announced their intentions to host a FIFA Women’s Club World Cup by 2017. This news comes from the Task Force for Women’s Football set up by FIFA in October 2013.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada is projected to bring in $267.3 million dollars to Canada in tourism alone. FIFA is sure to make some money as well on their quadrennial women’s tournament from broadcasting, sponsorship, merchandise and marketing rights. By adding a FIFA Women’s Club World Cup, FIFA is hoping to grow the women’s game while also capitalizing economically.
Launching a FIFA Women’s Club World Cup might seem ideal for the women’s game. The FIFA Men’s Club World Cup is not as powerful or engaging as the UEFA Champions League, the premier tournament that features the best talent from around the world on one continent. The winner of the UEFA Champions League then plays against weaker clubs from other continents. By launching a Club World Cup for women, FIFA would be hoping that fans of the women’s game would enjoy a second worldwide women’s tournament the same way they enjoy the Women’s World Cup.
There are threats to the financial viability of a Club World Cup for women, however. This tournament would rely on the viability and strength of women’s leagues around the world. Arguably the strongest national team in the world, the United States, has struggled to create a financially stable women’s league in the past fifteen years.
FIFA would also be mistaken if they think that the nations with the strongest men’s leagues (England, Spain, and Germany) will make the Women’s Club World Cup financially successful. According to a 2013 report from the German Institute for Economic Research, strong legacy of men’s soccer in a nation does not always lead to success on the women’s side. For FIFA, this means that nations who have the largest television ratings for the UEFA Champions League will not necessarily see comparable, or even proportionate, ratings for the Women’s Club World Cup.
Another research draft from the College of the Holy Cross suggests that there are geographical pockets that have developed strong women’s programs. This includes the United States and Canada, parts of East Asia, and Northern Europe, where there is a strong correlation between the empowerment of women in these regions and their successful women’s national teams. The research identifies that most Latin American and Muslim nations will not likely watch or invest in the Women’s Club World Cup since they likely do not have strong women’s leagues in their nations.
The Task Force has also established ten key principles to grow the women’s game around the world. Though this is a step in the right direction for the game, there are those who are suspicious of the intentions of the international football governing body. FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter, has been trying to improve his image since 2004 when he suggested that women play in tighter shorts to grow the sport and attract more viewers.
FIFA’s image has not improved much in the women’s football arena. The women playing in Canada’s World Cup this upcoming summer filed a lawsuit against FIFA on the grounds that FIFA is hosting the tournament in stadiums whose field surfaces endanger the safety of the players. The lawsuit claimed that the women were not given the same treatment as men, citing the 2014 Men’s World Cup was played on higher quality surfaces. The women dropped the lawsuit in fear of discrimination from their national federations. The Task Force for Women’s Football might go a long way in improving FIFA’s poor image.
FIFA must consider these economic issues before jumping headfirst into the Women’s Club World Cup, and, more importantly, they should be sure that the tournament is aligned with the ten key principles. Women’s football has grown differently from the men’s game. In this case, what is good for the goose, may not be good for the gander. The FIFA Men’s Club World Cup has not seen the economic success of other tournaments, but perhaps it will serve to grow the game for women.