By Simon Evans
LYON, France (Reuters) – United States co-captain Megan Rapinoe launched a scathing attack on world soccer’s governing body FIFA, on the eve of the women’s World Cup final, saying the organisation did not respect the female game.
Rapinoe said FIFA’s decision to allow the Copa America final and the Gold Cup final to take place on the same day as the women’s final was “unbelievable”.
“It is terrible scheduling for everyone. As people who work in football, play in football, that is a terrible idea to put everything on the same day. In every way,” she said during the pre-final news conference.
“Obviously there are two other finals going on but this is the World Cup final – this is like, cancel everything day. So no, I don’t know how it happened, I read somewhere that they said they just didn’t think about it – that’s a bit of a problem.”
The Copa America final between Brazil and Peru will be held in Rio on Sunday while CONCACAF’s Gold Cup, featuring the United States and Mexico is in Chicago. Neither game’s timing clashes with the women’s World Cup final, being held in Lyon between the United States and the Netherlands.
“The World Cup final is set so far in advance it is actually unbelievable. So no I don’t think that we feel the same level of respect, certainly that FIFA has for the men and just in general,” said Rapinoe.
In a statement to Reuters, a FIFA spokesperson said: “The scheduling of the different events has gone through a comprehensive consultancy process that has involved all key stakeholders and taken into account different aspects of both the women’s and men’s international match calendars.”
“FIFA and the confederations have discussed the respective match schedules in general to minimise any potential timing clashes,” the spokesperson added.
Rapinoe also took aim at FIFA over the financial prize on offer for the women’s World Cup.
On Friday FIFA president Gianni Infantino proposed doubling the total prize money of the World Cup to $60 million. The men’s edition in Russia last year, featuring 32 teams, had a total prize money pot of $400 million. That amount for the men will rise to $440 million for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.
“It certainly is not fair,” said Rapinoe.
“We should double it now and then use that number to double it or quadruple it for the next time. That’s what I mean when I talk about do we feel respected?
“If you really care about each game in the same way, are you letting the gap grow? I’m not saying the prize money is 450m this time or next time around, I understand that for a lot of different reasons, the men’s game financially is far advanced than the women’s game.
“If you really care are you letting the gap grow, are you scheduling three finals on the same day? No, you’re not,” said the American.
(This story corrects Copa America finalist to Peru from Argentina)
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Clare Lovell)