Infantino and the Women’s Game

By | March 8, 2016

infantino                       Billie_Jean_King_Cover_Photo

Gianni Infantino, the previous UEFA Secretary, was elected the new president of FIFA several days ago. His election marks him as just the ninth president in FIFA’s 111 year history, a stunning number. In many ways, it’s no wonder that FIFA is so resistant to change with that number; the old guard has been in charge in the same way for years. But that might be about to change dramatically, as one of the big voting measures of the election was to overhaul the way that FIFA runs. In particular, a new executive committee of 36 members will have a lot more oversight and control over FIFA, with the president having far less. Infantino supported this measure, but it remains to be seen how much he will support the other big change: of that 36 member committee, at least 6 will be women.

Infantino has publicly supported the measure saying that ‘It’s a minimum of six. It must be more,’ as he suggested that other committees in FIFA might be a great place to increase women’s roles in the sport. On March 8th, in honor of International Women’s Day, FIFA held a women’s leadership conference to discuss the new measure and how to best improve women’s standing in the sport. Oddly though, the meeting’s keynote speaker wasn’t even a soccer player. Billie Jean King is a tennis star, for sure, but not a soccer one. It’s indicative, though, of the exclusion of women from power in the sport of soccer that the most outspoken female critic of FIFA is a tennis player.

A lot of King’s rhetoric in the meeting was economic; along with Moya Dodd, the head of Fifa’s Womens Taskforce, these women have pointed out that FIFA currently has a ‘brand problem’ and that ‘women are part of the solution’. One argument they’ve made that is somewhat interesting is that of branding; they’ve argued that FIFA has really one big branded item in the World Cup, and promoting the Women’s game and the Women’s World Cup more would be a way to essentially diversify the portfolio.

Sepp Blatter, a noted foot dragger in promoting the Women’s game, is also notorious for saying ‘The future of football is feminine.’ That sentiment is certainly one that makes sense in expanding the audience for soccer. A noted example of this is in Australia, a country dominated by rugby and cricket. Soccer is often not even on the nation’s radar, at least in the men’s game. As a comparison, Australia is a country with 23 million people, and none of the top 10 most watched events in the country’s history involve soccer. Only 4 million of those people tuned in for the most watched sports event in the country’s history, the 2005 Australian Open Final. Compare that to Portugal, a country of only 10 million people, where 26 out of the top 30 most watched TV events in the country have involved soccer; most of those viewings involved way more than the 4 million Australia mustered up. Part of the reason for this disparity is success: the Australian men’s team has simply not performed terribly well for their existence. However, this is where the women’s game becomes important: if the men can’t succeed, why not the women?

The Australian Women’s team, affectionately known as the Matilda’s, have been brought up as the way forward for FIFA in the Land Down Under. The team is in the top 10 of the Women’s rankings, just qualified for the Olympics by beating powerhouse Japan, and has consistently improved year in and year out. Australia is establishing its own women’s professional league, and the women just won a landmark court case in 2015 in order to get paid for their time on the national team. In short, the Matilda’s are on their way up, and so is Australian soccer.

FIFA, then, has an important decision to make. If soccer can make inroads into a new, 24 million person population, then shouldn’t it embrace it any way it can? The Women’s World Cup was watched by over 700 million people; that should be a clear indicator of the economic impact the Women’s game can have for FIFA. Perhaps more importantly, though, with a new president, a new executive committee, and a new dedication to a cleaner image, the Women’s game, like King and Dodd suggested, might be a great place to start. While it might be atypical to suggest that Infantino’s first big move should be towards the Women’s game, it might make the most sense, both from an economical and image-centric perspective.


Works Cited:


Borden, Sam. “Gianni Infantino to Lead FIFA Into New Era.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.


Brantz, Stephanie. “Australia’s Matildas Take Another Step in the Rise of Women’s Football.” ESPN, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.


Clarey, Christopher. “Billie Jean King Campaigns for Women’s Soccer.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Mar. 2016. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.


“List of Countries and Dependencies by Population.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.


“List of Most Watched Television Broadcasts.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.


Marcin, Tim. “Will Gianni Infantino Reform FIFA? New President Urged By Billie Jean King To Hire Women.” International Business Times. IB Times, 08 Mar. 2016. Web. 08 Mar. 2016.

One thought on “Infantino and the Women’s Game

  1. Jed Stone

    Following this blog post chronologically, a couple thoughts come to mind:

    First, it seems unfortunately pathetic that FIFA is in a state of patriarchy requiring a minimum of 6 women on the new committee. I am all for the measure because it certainly combats the current problem, but goes to show the state of women’s rights in FIFA: lacking but growing.

    Second, even though 700 million people watched the most recent women’s World Cup, I think branding women’s soccer is lacking. Branding soccer is probably easiest and most natural via great players; the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez… For better or worse, these great players gain a following around the world. It should be safe to say there are women that can dominate women’s soccer for better or for worse. However, if FIFA and endorsing companies don’t capitalize on female talent, the likelihood of their worldwide fame and rise of women’s soccer diminishes. As someone who never watched soccer, I first heard of Ronaldo by seeing him model in a clothing ad on the internet. He is branded this way, and built around his personality.


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