FIFA has predicted the women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand will be a “watershed” moment that propels the game to another level, with the target to eventually rival the men’s version.
Women’s football is already enjoying a surge in popularity in some countries, and the tournament looks set to spark further global interest.
With 100 days till kick-off, FIFA’s chief women’s football officer Sarai Bareman told NewsCorp Australia in comments published Tuesday that more than two billion viewers were expected to tune in, double the previous tournament in France, won by the United States.
Record attendance is also predicted, with 650,000 tickets already snapped up. The next phase of sales opened Tuesday.
Bareman said she believed the event would be a major turning point and a driver for social change, creating role models for young girls and helping promote gender equality.
“People will be saying, ‘That was the watershed moment that changed everything and took the game to the next level’,” she said.
“And that’s in every aspect — commercially, participation, popularity and growth.
“I think people will really look back and choose the women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as that watershed moment where the growth, which is already exponential, just took off to the absolute next level.”
Bareman, a New Zealand-born former Samoan international, said the ultimate goal was to grow the tournament to rival the men’s and get females on equal footing in terms of pay.
“We know the men’s World Cup is the primary source of revenue for FIFA and football, and that generates in excess of $US5 billion per edition, and that’s a clear target for women’s football,” she said.
“We want to get to that level. The first World Cup for men was in 1930, it wasn’t until 61 years later the first women’s World Cup was introduced, we’re still in our infancy as a product.
“But we have to look at what’s happening in the men’s game as an inspiration and a target, for me it’s got to be in the billions and we have to keep pushing until we get to that level.”
The tournament, which will take place in five Australian and four New Zealand cities, has been expanded from 24 to 32 teams for the first time.
It kicks off when New Zealand face Norway in Auckland and Australia meet Ireland in Sydney.
Despite Bareman’s upbeat outlook, some broadcasters have reportedly made low-ball offers for rights to screen the event, a move slammed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino as “not acceptable”.
The concerns are around some games being played at night or the early hours of the morning in lucrative markets in Europe and the Americas.
Bareman told NewsCorp that broadcasters underbidding could miss out entirely.
“We do have to hold the line and make sure that for the good of the next generations of female footballers, that they are given the opportunities afforded their male counterparts,” she said. “We can only do that by ensuring its commercial value is recognised.
“It could be the case (some countries miss out), we’re still in the negotiation phase right now which is typical, often these things do come down to the wire so that’s nothing unusual.”