FIFA looks to expand Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams after ‘best ever’ tournament in France

FIFA will seek to expand the Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams and double the prize money while maintaining a significant financial gulf with funding for the men’s tournament. (AFP)
Updated 05 July 2019

FIFA looks to expand Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams after ‘best ever’ tournament in France

LYON: FIFA will seek to expand the Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams and double the prize money while maintaining a significant financial gulf with funding for the men’s tournament.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino will need quick approval from ruling bodies to enlarge the Women’s World Cup, with bidding already underway for the 2023 edition. The process would have to be reopened if countries are forced to find the stadiums to accommodate more teams and additional games.
“We will need to act more quickly if we want to have 32 teams already in 2023,” Infantino said Friday. “We will discuss it as a matter of urgency and see if we can already decide to increase for 2023 in which case we should re-open the bidding process and allow everyone to have a chance to organize or maybe co-host for some of those who have been bidding already for a 24-team World Cup.”
The 37-member FIFA Council had been due to vote on the 2023 Women’s World Cup host in March 2020, with nine countries expressing interesting in bidding.
The nine, including recent men’s World Cup hosts Brazil and South Africa, must submit formal bid plans by Oct. 4. The other contenders are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, which could bid with North Korea.
“Nothing is impossible and based on the success of this World Cup of course we have to believe bigger and to do what we should have done already probably some time ago,” Infantino said ahead of Sunday’s final between the United States and the Netherlands. “But now we have the evidence to do it for women’s football.”
Infantino previously prioritized enlarging the men’s World Cup, with a jump from 32 to 48 teams when the United States co-hosts with Canada and Mexico in 2026. A bid to fast-track expansion for the 2022 tournament in Qatar collapsed in May due to logistical and political barriers.
That event will see teams splitting prize money of $440 million and $209 million will be made available to clubs releasing players.
But women’s teams earn significantly less for competing at the women’s showpiece. Even doubling the prize money, team preparation funding and cash for clubs releasing players — as Infantino disclosed Friday — will only lift the figure to $100 million.
Infantino has, however, pledged to introduce two new women’s competitions: a Club World Cup and league for nations between World Cups.
“We can develop national team football only if we develop club football as well all over the world, not only in a few countries,” Infantino said. “So we need a club World Cup which can be played every year to expose clubs from all over the world and to make men’s clubs, but also women’s clubs, invest even more in women’s football.”
Infantino said FIFA would double investment in women’s soccer to $1 billion but later clarified that much of the funding would be reserved for soccer federations to request for specific projects that would require approval from the governing body.
FIFA’s cash reserves at the end of 2018 stood at $2.74 billion.
“We don’t need all that money in Swiss banks,” Infantino said.


Pakistan: No more international cricket at neutral venues

Updated 10 December 2019

Pakistan: No more international cricket at neutral venues

  • Pakistan Cricket Board chief says the country is safe for international cricket
  • Pakistan’s decade-long isolation from hosting test cricket ends on Wednesday when Sri Lanka will play at Pindi Cricket Stadium

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan will no longer look for neutral venues to stage home international cricket matches.
“The onus will be on the other teams to tell us why they can’t play in Pakistan,” Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
“Our default position will remain that Pakistan is safe. We play cricket in Pakistan (and if) you want to play against Pakistan you have to come to Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s decade-long isolation from hosting test cricket ends on Wednesday when Sri Lanka will play at Pindi Cricket Stadium. The second test will be in Karachi from Dec. 19-23. The series is part of the world test championship.
Sri Lanka was the last team to play a test in Pakistan in 2009. Terrorists attacked the team’s bus in Lahore and eight people were killed. Several Sri Lanka players and team officials were injured. The ambush shut the door on international cricket in Pakistan. The PCB organized almost all of its home matches in the United Arab Emirates.
In the last four years, the PCB staged short limited-overs tours against the likes of Zimbabwe, the West Indies, Sri Lanka and a World XI to show the cricket world it could host tours safely. Sri Lanka agreed to play two test matches in Pakistan only after it visited Karachi and Lahore three months ago and played an incident-free series of one-day internationals and Twenty20s.
“It’s only logical that cricket comes home,” Mani said. “People have a perception of Pakistan which is very, very different to the reality of what is happening on the ground in Pakistan today.
“The concerns that people had about Pakistan, certainly for the last year or two, were not what the ground reality is.”
Top cricketing officials from Australia, England, Ireland, and the international players’ association have visited Pakistan in the last six months.
“When they see the ground reality, it’s a different attitude,” Mani said. “In fact, it was very nicely put by the chief executive of Cricket Ireland. He said, “I have to think of a reason why we shouldn’t be coming to Pakistan.’”
Mani said he’s had discussions with officials from Cricket Australia and England and Wales Cricket Board and he hoped that both countries will tour Pakistan in the next three years.
“I am absolutely confident that in 2021 we’ll have England and in 2022 we’ll have Australia,” he said.
“We’re not due to play New Zealand now till about 2023-24, but our default position is that Pakistan will play all its home matches in Pakistan.”
Despite the impending return of test cricket, Mani conceded there might not be a capacity crowd for the test, in stark contrast to the packed stadiums in Lahore in October when Sri Lanka whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 in the T20 series.
“Look, test cricket had been losing (crowd) support in the subcontinent, in fact around the world apart from England and Australia,” he said.
“People prefer to go and watch the white-ball cricket (T20s and ODIs) but it doesn’t mean that people don’t follow test cricket. You’ll probably find that people watch test cricket at home on television and through the telephone or whatever these days as much as they’ve ever done.
“We haven’t had much time to do the marketing for this (Rawalpindi test) but going forward we’re going to be working very hard to ensure that we can get young people in with the schools and college students, support them to come at little or no cost, give them exposure to cricket.”