Football: Visit Saudi ditched as potential sponsor of women's World Cup in New Zealand

FFIFA President Gianni Infantino.
FFIFA President Gianni Infantino. Photo credit: Getty Images

FIFA has dropped plans for Saudi Arabia to sponsor the 2023 Women's World Cup, says FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

It follows a backlash from co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, players and sponsors about the proposed deal.

Infantino said talks had taken place with Visit Saudi, the gulf country's tourism arm, about sponsoring the tournament.

"At the end this discussion didn't lead into a contract," he said, calling the affair "a storm in a teacup."

The Swiss official, who has been re-elected unopposed as FIFA president, also said FIFA was aiming to have equal prize money for the men's and women's World Cup by 2027.

Infantino said he would not have seen an issue with Saudi Arabia sponsoring a World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as "FIFA is an organisation of 211 countries, for us they are all the same," and given that there was US$1.5 billion (NZ$2.4bn) worth of trade between Australia and Saudi Arabia every year.

"This doesn't seem to be a problem," he said. "But between a global organisation like FIFA and Visit Saudi this would have been an issue. There is a double standard here, which I really don't understand.

"There is no issue and no contract. There are discussions and of course we want to see how we can involve Saudi sponsors in women's football generally, how we can involve Saudi sponsors in men football, or we can involve Qatari sponsors in women's football and men's football, and all other sponsors from all over the world."

In response to the news, NZ Football said: "New Zealand Football welcome the confirmation from FIFA that Visit Saudi will not be sponsoring the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

"We believe it is critical for all commercial partnerships to align with the vision and values of the tournaments they are involved in."

The question of prize money was brought up by Infantino as part of a three-step plan for the women's game.

Women's World Cup prize money is rising to $243 million for this year's tournament, from $50m in 2019. However, at the men's World Cup last year in Qatar the prize money on offer totalled $717m.

The money for the 2027 Women's World Cup would match the 2026 men's tournament in Canada, United States and Mexico, Infantino said.

Along with prize money in the three-step plan announced by Infantino, another will be equal conditions and services, such as accommodation and flights, for all men and women playing at World Cups.

Step three is to have pay parity by the next men's and women's World Cup in 2026 and 2027, which Infantino said would be the "most complicated", as he also criticised broadcasters and sponsors for offering much less financially for the women's tournament compared to the men's.

World players' union Fifpro welcomed Infantino's comments on equal pay, saying: "The progress announced today demonstrates the intent of the players and FIFA to work proactively towards greater equity and equality for the industry."

The 2023 Women's World Cup, which will be the first to feature 32 teams, runs from July 20 to August 20.