FIFA Should Run The Women's World Cup At The Same Time As The Men's
Oi FIFA, I have a bone to pick…
You want to help eliminate sexism in sport? Run the men’s and women’s tournaments simultaneously under one banner: The World Cup.
Take a leaf out of tennis’ or the Olympics’ book and play the men's and women's World Cups concurrently and remove any mention of gender in the title. Because after all, football is just football.
Sure, there are logistical challenges of doing so. You need enough high-quality stadiums and training facilities for all of the teams, plus elite referees, linesmen (or lineswomen, am I right?), hotels and VAR technology.
Only a handful of countries could handle all of this, but it can be done. And done well.
After all, isn’t the aim to boost awareness? Get more girls playing sport? Raise the profile of the game?
Wouldn’t having the two competitions playing alongside each other achieve exactly that?
It seems like a better option than asking the women to play in "tighter shorts" and "more feminine uniforms" to attract more fans and sponsors to the game. Yes, that was an actual suggestion made by former FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2004. And somehow, similar remarks are still being made.
At the very least, if we want to shift gender bias in football and redefine the sport, FIFA needs to modify the way it references championships and leagues, and call the men's comp the ‘Men’s Football World Cup’, just as we refer to the women's comp as the ‘Women’s Football World Cup’.
Can you believe in 2019 we’re still arguing why we need to do more to support women and girls in sport, while also wondering how we haven’t yet managed to emerge from the shadowy sexist depths of sports’ misogynistic history?
Because, after everything advocates have done (and continue to do) to level the playing field, there’s no denying women’s sport remains an afterthought --and as late as last week, a quick Google search for the term 'FIFA World Cup' confirmed that.
Rather than returning results and updates for the women’s tournament -- which is currently underway in France -- Google delivered the schedule from last year’s men’s World Cup in Russia. Yep, a tournament that was run and won 12 months ago. (Google has since directed search results to the women's competition.)
Because, apparently, I forgot to punch in a key word that makes this year’s tournament in France worthy of being acknowledged by the search engine: "Women’s".
Let’s be honest, ‘football’ actually translates to ‘men’s football’ and it’s the same with other popular sports. Globally we have created this routine of referring to cricket and women’s cricket, tennis and women’s tennis, footy and women’s footy. You get the picture.
This makes the men’s game seem like the norm and women’s competitions as the alternate. You know, the ones you need to add an extra keyword in a Google search.
Women have long been treated as second-class participants in the world of sport. It’s an inexcusable concept considering more and more females are playing, officiating and commentating sport than ever, not to mention Australia’s recent success on the world stage.
You only have to look as far as Ash Barty. Her swift (and no fuss) climb through the rankings to world number one within four years almost went unnoticed because we’ve been so distracted by those childish boys who (bewildering to me) represent our nation. Could you imagine if Barty lost her nerve and flung a chair across the court? Neither could I, because she just wouldn’t.
Within the same 24-hour period Aussie surfing icon Sally Fitzgibbons clinched the number one ranking and Hannah Green became the first Australian woman to win a golf major in 13 years.
And, despite underachieving, the Matildas still flew the Aussie flag proudly during the group stages in France with Sam Kerr famously telling the haters (which there are plenty of) to “suck on that” before going on to slot four goals in a single outing.
All in a day’s work for Kerr. It’s a shame she gets paid a pittance for those performances.
The Women’s World Cup may be the same tournament as the men’s version in many ways, but there are some off-pitch differences that indicate they aren’t quite on the same level yet.
Sadly, sport (and football in particular) will probably continue to neglect sexism and misogyny when ironically it’s sport that has the potential to trigger change.
Women’s sport will not achieve parity if the hurdles keeping it in the shadows remain. But renaming the FIFA World Cup would be a simple and effective step toward equality, if running the tournaments together proves too much of a challenge for the big boys at the world’s most powerful sporting body.
Is it too much to ask?