FIFA Earns A ‘Red Card’ For Poor Event Management At The 2019 Women’s World Cup – Forbes

The U.S. Women’s National team celebrate their 2-0 victory over Holland to win the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup on July 7, 2019.

Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

With their 2-0 victory over Holland on Sunday, the U.S. Women’s National team won the 2019 FIFA World Cup title. And in the process, became only the second country to win back-to-back titles (Germany did so in 2003 and 2007).

And while the victory celebration prominently featured FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, doing the customary duties of greeting the competitors at the presentation podium after the final match, and while the final match seemingly was well-run, well-attended and featured a scenic celebratory crescendo befitting a World Cup final, FIFA (and select host cities throughout France) failed – during the course of the event and based on several accounts from sources on-site during the tournament – to market and operate the Women’s World Cup in the same manner as prior men’s tournament.

For example:

– Writing for Yahoo Sports, Dan Wetzel noted:

“There are few billboards, signs, banners or pretty much anything else touting the event. Fan festivals are minimal. Restaurants and bars aren’t plastered with signs welcoming fans or saying they are serving the official beverage, or whatever, of the World Cup…There is reportedly nothing being spent in other regional cities around Europe with Cup contenders and easy access to the tournament such as London, Berlin and Rome.

In contrast, last year’s men’s World Cup in Russia not only saw promotions blanket the country, especially in Moscow, but nearly every major historic site in the city had massive and impossible-to-miss signage hyping up … the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar.”

A separate story from the Washington Post noted that many of the group-stage matches were played in front of stadiums that were barely half full…an issue that also lingered into the initial stages of the knockout round. The article goes on to say that FIFA’s poor promotional efforts and a pre-tournament announcement that made it seem as if few tickets were still available were likely major contributors to reductions in demand for games.

Then there was the ticketing snafu in which many fans who ordered tickets were not allocated seats next to each other, prompting thousands of dissatisfied customers.

Additionally, FIFA also confessed to providing misleading information about the volume of Women’s World Cup ticket sales after the opening weekend of matches took place against the backdrop of many empty seats.

FIFA MUST OPERATE ITS EVENTS AS IF TITLE IX APPLIES TO THEM

Many of the operational issues plaguing the 2019 Women’s World Cup, including why it was woefully marketed compared to the Men’s World Cup, comes down to resource allocation.

Simply put, FIFA does not allocate as many human resources or dollars towards the operation of the Women’s World Cup relative to its male counterpart.

Now, a huge part of this is a function of revenue-generation:

  • According to a June 2018 piece in the New York Times, the 2018 World Cup in Russia generated an estimated $6.1 billion in revenue (including $3 billion-plus in TV rights and approximately $1.5 billion in sponsorship deals).
  • Conversely, as my Forbes colleague Mike Ozanian noted in a March 2019 piece, the 2019 Women’s World Cup was projected to earn $131 million for the full four-year cycle (2019-22).

In this respect, this stark revenue disparity reminds me of the revenue disparity most Power 5 Division I college athletic programs face in the United States between their “revenue-generating” sports (football and men’s basketball) from the rest of their athletic program.

However, largely because of Title IX, athletic departments are legally bound to ensure equal opportunities for male and female athletes alike. Subsequently, the revenue sports at these schools largely subsidize the operation of all other sports teams (both men’s and women’s).

That said, it is unfortunate that FIFA doesn’t take a page from these Division I college athletic programs by allocating more of the resources earned from its “cash cow” (the men’s World Cup) to further subsidize various operational logistics of the women’s tournament to ensure all marketing, ticketing, and other key operational aspects of the event are executed with the same level of competency and professionalism worthy of a World Cup event and a world-class fan experience.

Ruling on the field…red card to FIFA.

For poor operational execution during the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

For missing the Golden Boot on this clear and obvious goal of improving the operational standards during the Women’s World Cup to ensure maximizing the exposure for their sport and maximizing the fan experience and convenience for the thousands of fans who traveled thousands of miles to support their respective countries throughout France over the last month.