FIFA President Gianni Infantino and World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that they are looking to expand their partnership and help the economic empowerment of women.
FIFA and the WTO signed a Memorandum of Understanding in September 2022 where they agreed to look at ways of using football to promote economic inclusion, particularly in developing countries, and co-operate on the WTO’s cotton programme.
Cotton is a particularly important source of livelihoods and export revenue in the ‘Cotton Four’ (c4) countries, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, as well as some other countries including Côte d’Ivoire and Niger, and FIFA and the WTO have been looking at ways to boost the sourcing of cotton used in sportswear from those nations.
Mr Infantino and Dr Okonjo-Iweala spoke during Making Trade Score for Women!, a series of panel discussions held at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and which also featured the unveiling of the FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy in advance of this year’s 32-team final tournament which will take place in Australia and New Zealand from 20 July to 20 August.
“It is true that the FIFA Women’s World Cup represents the pinnacle of excellence in women’s football, but it is equally true that in the past, the women’s form of the game has not received the attention and prominence that it deserves,” Dr Okonjo-Iweala said. “Women in sport, as in every sphere of life, are entitled to the same rewards enjoyed by their male counterparts. Sadly, this has not been the case, and we’re really delighted at the effort that FIFA, under President Infantino, is making to change this narrative. The upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup represents a unique opportunity to discuss how the sport can be made more equal and crucially, how the economic returns from football can be better distributed.”
Dr Okonjo-Iweala then spoke about the opportunities for expanding the WTO’s partnership with FIFA. “More needs to be done, both in trade and in sport, to narrow the gap between the economic benefits enjoyed by men and women for equal work,” the WTO Director-General added.
“What I can see are the opportunities on the trade side, and when we couple that with the drive by FIFA and others to grow the game in developing countries, I can see the potential for trading services to increase. We are now physically engaged in trying to do something about that by starting with the ‘Cotton Four’ [initiative], and when this initiative succeeds, there is potential to see how we can expand this partnership to different parts of the sports goods world.”
Gianni Infantino said that football had a global economic of well over USD200 billion and that 70% of this was in Europe – showing the untapped potential in other parts of the world. “Imagine the potential that there is still outside of Europe, and the ‘Cotton Four’ initiative is part of unleashing that potential,” he said.
The FIFA President said that women’s empowerment is playing a significant part in football’s economic growth, with crowds of 80,000 to 90,000 at some recent women’s football games in Europe, while 50,000 people attended last year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final in Morocco.