The 2023 Women’s World Cup was the most successful tournament to date by viewership and revenue. However, findings from the world player’s union FIFPRO highlight the suboptimal conditions that continue to plague the women’s game.
A total of 260 players from 26 of the 32 competing national teams participated in the survey. Questions were focussed on the tournament, which was held in Australia and New Zealand this summer.
The report paints a damning picture of the international football schedule, compensation and medical care which directly impact performance.
- Two-thirds of players said that they were not at their physical peak during the tournament
- 53% of players felt that they did not have enough rest time prior to the competition’s kick-off
- 60% felt that their post-tournament recovery was insufficient
An increase in the number of games played across crammed domestic leagues and international competition schedules has contributed to the lack of adequate recovery time. While FIFPRO recommends ‘an off-season break of four weeks, with a retraining period of six weeks’, this was not possible for most players.
A total of 83% returned to club football within two weeks. Just three weeks after the final World Cup game on August 20, 54 clubs played in Champions League qualifiers on September 6.
FIFA made headlines prior to the tournament’s kick-off having tripled the prize pool from the 2019 tournament. In total, more than $150 million was allocated for performance-based payments to federations. For the first time, each of the 736 players was to be paid directly for taking part. The minimum fee for group-stage participation was set at $30,000.
This is a significant sum, given that one in three of the players in the tournament earn less than $30,000 per annum from football. One in five Women’s World Cup players supplement their income with a second job.
However, the findings noted that some players have yet to receive their individual compensation from the tournament for a ‘variety’ of reasons.
Inadequate medical care
Though each national team was entitled to an expanded delegation size of 50 at the tournament, the FIFPRO report highlights major issues with the quality and provision of medical care.
- 60% of players said that they lacked mental health support
- Two-thirds of players said that technical staff needed to improve
- One player requested that the qualifications of the technical staff in her delegation be investigated
10% of players did not undergo a medical examination prior to the tournament, while 22% did not undergo an electrocardiogram. Both tests are included in FIFA’s tournament regulations.
While FIFPRO’s head of strategy and research for women’s football Dr. Alex Culvin reaffirmed that anything less than 100% medical testing was unacceptable, the statistics show a vast improvement on the World Cup qualification process. In the qualifying phase, 54% of players did not receive a medical examination, and 70% did not receive an electrocardiogram.