Soccer

FIFA says support of women's soccer will continue amid coronavirus pandemic

Soccer's international governing body says it will maintain funding for women's soccer despite concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Early signs show COVID-19 already taking toll with cancellations, delays worldwide

Canada defender Allysha Chapman, right, kicks the ball past Costa Rica forward Melissa Herrera during a February game. On Tuesday, FIFA announced its financial commitment to women's soccer would continue in full amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Chris Carlson/The Associated Press)

Soccer's international governing body says it will maintain funding for women's soccer despite concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the Women's World Cup last year, FIFA President Gianni Infantino pledged to invest $1 billion US in the women's game over the next four years.

"In line with the FIFA Women's Football Strategy and FIFA's long-term vision for the development of women's football, this funding will be invested into a range of areas in the women's game including competitions, capacity building, development programs, governance and leadership, professionalization and technical programs," FIFA said in a statement provided Tuesday to The Associated Press. "We can confirm that this funding has already been committed by FIFA and will not be impacted by the current COVID-19 crisis."

The Guardian first reported that FIFA's funding would not drop because of the coronavirus.

FIFA also said it is assessing the financial impact the pandemic is having on soccer worldwide, including the women's game, and is exploring possible ways to provide assistance.

"The exact format and details of this assistance are currently being discussed in consultation with FIFA's member associations, the confederations and other stakeholders," the organization said.

FIFA has said it sees a duty to offer a lifeline from its cash reserves, last reported at more than $2.7 billion, as the economic consequences of the pandemic ripple across global soccer.

"FIFA is in a strong financial situation and it's our duty to do the utmost to help them in their hour of need," the organization said in a statement late last month. "FIFA is working on possibilities to provide assistance to the football community around the world after making a comprehensive assessment of the financial impact this pandemic will have on football."

Pandemic already taking toll

Infantino reiterated the pledge in a video message to FIFA's member associations.

FIFA's commitment comes after FIFPro, the international players' union, called for continued financial support of women's soccer worldwide. The union issued a report saying COVID-19 is "likely to present an almost existential threat to the women's game if no specific considerations are given to protect the women's football industry."

There are early signs the pandemic is already taking a toll on the women's game, in addition to the cancellation and postponement of league play and tournaments worldwide. In Colombia, Independiente Santa Fe suspended all player contracts for its women's soccer team recently but said its men's team would only see pay cuts.

The pandemic struck at a time when women's soccer was on the upswing, boosted by the success of last year's World Cup in France.

"We do have concerns about investments in the women's game being dropped or reduced or pre-crisis investments being withdrawn, ultimately, from the women's game. We're concerned that decision-makers might ignore the needs of women or exclude women's football from recovering support programs," said Amanda Vandervort, chief women's football officer for FIFPro.

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