With the Women’s World Cup getting underway Thursday, CNN reported Wednesday that FIFA was still struggling to sell tickets to the monthlong event, which is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
In an effort to turn that around, FIFA President Gianni Infantino implored New Zealanders to purchase tickets for the women’s soccer showcase.
“New Zealand, we want you. We need you,” Infantino said during a news conference Wednesday in Auckland.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing. Come to watch the matches. We need full stadiums to warm us all up,” he added, emphasizing the significance of enthusiastic support from the home crowd.
Joining Infantino was FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura, who echoed his sentiments and encouraged Kiwis not to delay in securing their tickets.
“We still have tickets available for some matches, so my only plea is don’t wait until the last moment,” Samoura said.
As part of the efforts to entice fans to attend the matches, the accounting firm Xero, an official partner of the Women’s World Cup, offered 20,000 free tickets for games in New Zealand’s four host cities, according to CNN.
While the complimentary ticket allocation has been fully utilized, the remaining tickets left unsold indicate interest in the event remains low.
The exact reason is unclear.
The Associated Press noted that the country’s Football Ferns have never won a World Cup group match.
“A larger problem,” it said, “is that soccer is not generally a widely supported sport in New Zealand and attracting fans to stadiums in the coldest months of the year was always going to be a hard sell.”
Infantino, in his unwavering support for the women’s game, continued to promote the sport in an effort to sell more tickets.
He confidently addressed the skepticism people have for women’s soccer, saying, “Many people … still believe that women’s football is not, you know, great, a great game or it’s not so entertaining or it’s a kind of a bad copy of men’s football, or some stuff like that. Well, when they watch a game for the first time, they will actually see that it’s a fantastic game.”
Adding to the significance of this Women’s World Cup, FIFA has moved to bring players’ pay closer to what the men receive in the World Cup.
FIFA is ensuring direct payments to the female participants, marking the first time in history that such compensation is guaranteed. Each player participating in the tournament will receive a minimum of $30,000 from a record $110 million prize pot.
According to a March news release, Infantino said that “a total package of USD 152 million would be on offer at this year’s tournament – three times more than at the previous FIFA Women’s World Cup in France four years ago and over 10 times more than the amount offered at the 2015 tournament in Canada.”
The move reflects the efforts of the USWNT and others in lobbying for equal pay despite the undeniable reality that women’s soccer generates less revenue and has a smaller fan base than men’s soccer.
The passionate pleas from Infantino and Samoura underscore the disparity between how the liberal media view women’s soccer and how most of the ticket-buying public sees the sport.