FIFA’s Gianni Infantino pushes for equal pay at the World Cup News-thread


Gianni Infantino, a controversial figure in the world of soccer, secured a new term on Thursday as president of FIFA, the sport’s world governing body, after an election in which he was the sole candidate.

Infantino, 52, was crowned for another four years by acclamation, with representatives from all but a small number of FIFA’s 211 national associations applauding at FIFA’s annual meeting, held this year in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. .

But perhaps the biggest revelation of the day referred to women’s football. Following re-election, Infantino announced that FIFA would increase prize money for this year’s Women’s World Cup to $110 million and provide millions more to participating teams in preparation funds, promising to match prize money with the men’s event by the time the next tournaments are held. she played. The increase, Infantino said, was 10 times greater than when the tournament was held in 2015 and three times greater than the previous edition in 2019.

Coming out of relative obscurity, Infantino became soccer’s top leader in 2016 after a massive corruption scandal plunged FIFA into what is probably the biggest crisis in its history.

FIFA rules drawn up by a group including Infantino limit presidents to three four-year terms, but on the eve of last year’s World Cup final, he said a review had “clarified” that his first three years in office did not count. potentially allowing him to run FIFA until 2031.

Infantino took office after his predecessor, Sepp Blatter, was ousted after just a year into his last four-year term.

Upon confirmation of his re-election, Infantino seemed to acknowledge that he was not universally popular. “Those who love me, I know there are many, and those who hate me, I know there are few,” he said. “I love you all.”

Later, at a press conference, he accused the media of being “mean” to him.

While Infantino’s time in office has stabilized the governing body, his tenure has also been marked by curious public statements and painful battles with some of football’s biggest stakeholders, including clubs, leagues and unions.

He has also been at the center of a power struggle with European soccer’s governing body UEFA, where he had been the top administrator before his promotion to FIFA president.

FIFA has been in near constant conflict with UEFA since 2018, when Infantino tried to pull off a $25 billion sale of new events, including an expanded World Cup for clubs that was seen as a rival to the wildly popular Liga de UEFA Champions.

Since then, there have been other skirmishes as well, particularly when Infantino tried to push through a proposal to change the quadrennial World Cup to a biennial event. Infantino and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin rarely speak to each other.

But this week, among the delegates to the FIFA meeting in Kigali, Infantino has appeared in his element. Many of the member countries of the governing body are relatively small or medium-sized countries that rely heavily on the generosity of FIFA for much of their income.

Infantino also has a reputation for showing off his relationships with politicians, including Donald J. Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. In Kigali, he was joined at the congress by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

In his opening remarks on Thursday, Infantino recalled how he had traveled to Rwanda to lobby African officials during his first campaign to become FIFA president eight years ago. After being told that he couldn’t count on his support, he said that he had been about to retire.

But, he said, a visit to a memorial to the victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide had “inspired” him to stay in the race, noting how well the country had recovered in the intervening years. He later denied making the comparison, suggesting that his words had been misinterpreted.

Infantino sparked controversy on the eve of the World Cup in Qatar last year with an extraordinary speech in which he lashed out at Western critics of the decision to host the tournament in the Middle East for the first time. In Kigali he found an ally in Kagame, who used his speech to endorse Infantino, making similar references to “constant hypocritical criticism”.

“Instead of asking why it’s held there, first ask, ‘Why not?'” Kagame said. “Unless we’re talking about a kind of entitlement that only some of us on this block deserve to enjoy, it’s about keeping some people in their place, but that kind of attitude should be long gone in history by now.”

Critics of the World Cup in Qatar highlighted the deaths and mistreatment of workers hired for the large construction projects that were built for the tournament, including several stadiums. Others drew attention to the country’s broader human rights record. Infantino was unmoved, describing the tournament as the best ever”.

The FIFA conference in Kigali has offered a microcosm of the Infantino presidency. He was feted by local politicians and national soccer executives, but once again drew criticism from further afield.

This week’s announcement that the 2026 World Cup in North America, the first 48-team tournament and the event’s first expansion since 1998, would be extended further by adding 24 more games than planned was met with fury from groups representing leagues from around the world.

They offered what has become a familiar FIFA rebuke from Infantino: that the governing body announce major changes without consulting the groups involved.

But her statement about plans to boost women’s soccer is sure to hearten supporters of the game, who have long been lobbying FIFA to equalize pay and treatment between male and female players in their respective tournaments.

In addition to the increased prize money, players in this year’s 32-team World Cup will have the exact same conditions that the men’s players received in Qatar, including one room for each player and allowing each delegation to travel with up to 50 members. Infantino said there was likely to be a cap on the amount of prize money team members could receive, with a significant amount expected to go towards soccer development.

Even so, in four years the pay would have to more than double to reach the $440 million paid to teams at the World Cup in Qatar. That could be achieved, Infantino said, if broadcasters reached into their pockets to buy the rights to women’s soccer, saying FIFA received less than 100 times the amount it received for the men’s World Cup despite the lure of women’s tournaments had grown exponentially in recent years.

Earlier, delegates were asked to show their support for Infantino, the FIFA president delivered another speech outlining the organization’s achievements and the ways in which it had successfully organized the World Cup and planned new ones.

He also reminded officials that FIFA had budgeted record revenue of $11 billion over a four-year cycle through 2026, a figure he said “will increase further by a few billion.”

At the time of the vote, Infantino was supported by most of the room, including the delegates of his staunchest critics, such as the Dutch and English federations.

The Norwegian delegation, however, made good on a promise not to rise to cheer him, with its president, Lise Klaveness, saying on election eve that Infantino had “failed to set an example” of promised reforms.


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