FIFA has committed to provide the same conditions for the players at this summer's Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as the men get at their soccer showcase, according to FIFPro, an organization which represents professional footballers around the world.
That includes FIFA paying for a 50-person delegation for each team (up from 35 at the 2019 women's tournament), as well as providing business-class travel and single hotel rooms for the players.
FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann told reporters on Friday that FIFA, after several months of talks, has confirmed "that all these conditions will be equalized in this World Cup."
There is more work to be done on equalizing prize money, although FIFA has upped the purse for the women this summer.
Being treated the same as the men, including travel and resources, has been been one major asks of the Canadian women's team.
"The feedback that we got from the players on those experiences and why it's so important to have the option of single rooms was it's very draining being at a World Cup, it takes a lot out of you," said Sarah Gregorius, FIFPro director of policy and strategic relations, women’s football.
"And the ability to decompress and have time for yourself from a mental well-being and performance perspective is really important. It's really challenging to do that when you have a roommate."
Gregorius won 100 caps for New Zealand and played at the 2011, '15 and '19 World Cups.
Last week, FIFA announced a US$152-million fund for this summer's Women's World Cup, which is the first 32-team women's competition, covering prize money, team preparation and payments to players' clubs.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino also set a target of equal prize money for men and women at their next World Cups Cups, in 2026 and 2027, respectively.
The 32 men's teams shared US$440 million in prize money at last year's World Cup in Qatar. Canada earned US$9 million for its participation plus US$1.5 million to help prepare for the tournament.
Argentina collected US$42 million for winning in Qatar. In comparison, the U.S. women won US$4 million out of a prize of US$30 million for the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
In October, FIFPro sent FIFA a letter signed by 150 women's national team players from 25 countries, including Canada, asking FIFA for equal World Cup prize money.
The letter also asked for equal treatment and conditions for women's teams at the World Cup.
Infantino said some of the US$110 million in women's prize money at this summer's World Cup should be dedicated to paying players. FIFPro has asked FIFA to secure a "global guarantee of at least 30 percent of prize money'' that is paid to players.
"That is indeed one of the areas where we are still seeking some clarity," Baer-Hoffmann told a virtual availability Friday. "Although I will say the conversations around these actually were encouraging until now."
The 30 per cent threshold was chosen, he said, after analysis of current agreements around the world. A few countries have higher thresholds, with Australia at 40 per cent and the U.S. at 90 per cent (moving down to 80 per cent).
Canada Soccer has offered to put 40 per cent of the men’s FIFA World Cup prize funds (approximately US$3.6 million) into a prize pool as well as up to 75 per cent of the women’s World Cup prize funds (estimated to be US$1 million to $4 million), to be split between the two teams.
Female players worldwide have been fighting for equal pay and equal respect with men's national teams. Baer-Hoffmann says FIFA has taken notice.
"If you see what's going on in so many countries around the world at the minute — Canada. Spain, France, etc. — where players literally put a part of their career to the side in order to fight against some of these inequalities and inappropriate conditions, then if you're governing the world game, if you're sitting on the big competition, making a choice on which side of that fence you're going to stand and sit, I think it just makes a whole lot of sense to push ahead," said Baer-Hoffmann.
He said he hopes that final details on improving conditions can be firmed up in talks scheduled with FIFA in the next few weeks.
This will also be the first World Cup where the women's teams have dedicated training bases.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2023.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press