The Fifa Women's World Cup enters its home stretch this week. The semi-finals and final will be played until Sunday in Lyon, the 3rd biggest French city and home of the best women’s football squads of all time, Olympique Lyonnais. The team won the Champions League for the sixth time last May. Club president Jean-Michel Aulas is one of the most influential figures in women's football. He spoke to Euronews at his office at the Groupama Stadium.
Cyril Collot (Euronews) : "The structures of women's teams have evolved, most of the major European clubs are following in your footsteps (creating powerful women sections), like recently Real Madrid [the Spanish club announced last week that it’s creating a women’s team], the sport has become more professional. How can this World Cup be a turning point for women's football?"
Jean-Michel Aulas (President of Olympique Lyonnais): "This is a turning point in many areas. On the one hand, the professionalization of the sport and new media exposure through very important television audiences are forcing national teams to become more and more successful. They have no choice but to progress. It is also true that this women's football exhibition creates new sponsorship and naming opportunities comparable to men's football.”
Cyril Collot: "This is also the World Cup of claims. Two of your former players, the Americans Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, are very committed and are demanding equality in terms of bonuses. They are in open conflict with their Federation. What do you think of their claims?”
Jean-Michel Aulas: "They are right to claim [that]. And that's why these two exceptional players came to play in Lyon. This means that we were able to satisfy their expectations at the time. These claims are in line with the times. They must obviously be taken into account even if we are not obliged to respond favourably to all of them. We just need to find rules of equity in this open economic relationship.”
Cyril Collot: “Now let's talk a little bit about the game and the competition, the stadium where the final will be held is right next to us, what do you think about the level of play offered since the beginning of the tournament?”
Jean-Michel Aulas: "This is a competition that has progressed enormously with the professionalisation of the players. The athletic performances no longer have anything to do with the last World Cup. Individually, the level of the players continues to rise, especially in technical terms. On the tactical level, as I have often said, women are often superior to men for me. It can be said that the level of this World Cup is exceptional and that it is not by chance that the audience explodes and all the stadiums are full.”
Cyril Collot: “Jean-Michel Aulas, to conclude, I will not ask you about who do you think will win but rather your ideal vision of post-World Cup women's football?”
Jean-Michel Aulas: "To continue to make progress, FIFA must promote the scheduling of matches with a coherent international calendar. At the European level, we need to be able to have competitions that are identical to those of the boys, with preliminary rounds and finals that offer more matches. Finally, on the international level, and here I am sending a message to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, we must be able to create a Women's Club World Cup, just like the boys. I'm not just preaching for my team. For the recognition of the very great clubs that have made the effort to have a women's team, it would be idyllic and wonderful.”