The Current

Despite growing audience, women's soccer still fighting for respect, says journalist

The Women's World Cup kicks off in France today, and FIFA is expecting record-breaking viewership numbers. But advocates for women in soccer say the organisation — and the world — still don't take the sport seriously.

The FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off in France today

Forward Christine Sinclair is among nine returning players on Canada's 23-player roster for the Women's World Cup in France. (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

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The FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off Friday in France, and the organization anticipates a record-breaking one billion viewers. Despite this, one soccer journalist argues that the players aren't treated the same as their male counterparts.

"We talk a lot about what is being done in the locker room … and fighting for equality there. But when it gets down to it, you can only get equality from the top down," Sonja Missio told The Current guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

Missio referenced the makeup of FIFA's staff, specifically the higher-ranking positions, which she says are largely male-dominated.

She added that on an institutional level, female players are regularly seen as "second class citizens" compared to their male counterparts.

"Once we get equality actually in the structural organization, then we can start seeing the equality filter down and pushed down into the actual game," she added.

The month-long World Cup competition kicks off with Canada among the leading nations, whose team is ranked fifth in the world by FIFA.

Along with the coveted World Cup champion title, the teams are fighting for a share of the total prize money of $30 million US — double what it was at the last Women's World Cup.

In comparison, the most recent male FIFA World Cup game offered a total prize pool of $400 million US, with $38 million US reserved for the champions.

France took home the 2018 FIFA World Cup prize, which was $38 million US from the total $400 million US worth of prize money. (Associated Press)

To discuss Friday's opening game and how women's soccer fares on the world stage of sports, Chattopadhyay spoke to:

  • Sonja Missio, soccer journalist and co-founder of Unusual Efforts, an online publication supporting women in soccer journalism.
  • Rachel Allison, a sociology professor at Mississippi State University and author of Kicking Center: Gender and the Selling of Women's Professional Soccer.
  • Carrie Serwetnyk, the first woman inducted into the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by Ines Colabrese and Max Paris.


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