Four months out from the 2023 Women’s World Cup, 150 players from 25 women’s national teams have signed a letter calling on FIFA to equalise World Cup prize money, as well as conditions and resources, and enshrine those principles in a global collective bargaining agreement.

The letter has been backed by FIFPro, the global players’ union that represents roughly 65,000 professional footballers worldwide, which helped deliver it to FIFA president Gianni Infantino last October, just before the start of the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar.

Signed by players from nations on every continent, including Australia and current world champions USA, the letter calls on FIFA to implement three major reforms that “set a path for women’s footballers to have viable economic prospects through FIFA’s reach, resources, and already-stated statutory commitments to non-discrimination”.

These reforms include embedding equality into World Cup regulations and conditions such as travel to and from tournaments, the size of staff delegations, and access to facilities and training venues.

Further, the players also want a structural guarantee that they’ll receive at least 30 per cent of Women’s World Cup prize money “so that our sport continues to develop professionally”.

Currently, FIFA distributes prize money to national federations, which then decide what to do with it, instead of distributing it directly to players themselves. In the past, this has resulted in players receiving no money at all for their tournament participation, with federations using the money for other purposes.

“You, as FIFA, have stated that ‘women’s football is the single biggest growth opportunity in football today, and it remains a top priority for FIFA. Although the game has grown exponentially at all levels, the passion and rising popularity of the sport offers vast untapped potential,'” the letter says.

Despite that, it says, the global game remains “profoundly unequal” for women, to the point where, even at its biggest tournaments, players “come in … as amateurs or semi-professional, which undermines their preparation and, in turn, the quality of the football we see on the pitch”.

The letter also highlights that the enormous prize pot on offer at the men’s World Cup incentivises federations to invest more heavily in men’s programs, often to the detriment of their women’s teams.

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The US team is one of several around national squads that have fought public battles in the pursuit of equality.(Getty Images/Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

While Women’s World Cup prize money has grown over the past two cycles, it is still vastly outstripped by the men’s tournament. Last year’s World Cup in Qatar had a total prize pot of $US440 million ($655 million), with Argentina receiving roughly $US42 million for winning the title.

By contrast, at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, the total prize pot was just $US30 million, with the USA receiving $US1 million for winning.

FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura said the 2023 edition would likely “double” the 2019 prize money, bringing it up to roughly $US69 million, but it will still be several factors smaller than the men’s pot, which is also expected to increase for the expanded 2026 edition.

This is not the first time FIFA has been called upon to equalise World Cup prize money.

Australia’s players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), launched a campaign titled #OurGoalisNow ahead of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, arguing that the governing body, which has revenues in the billions despite being a non-profit organisation, should immediately double the pot offered to women’s teams.

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The 2019 champions USA were also involved in a public battle against their own federation to redress historical inequalities, including conditions, resources, and prize money for World Cup participation, which they partly won last year after a drawn-out legal fight.

FIFA recently projected that it would generate about $US11 billion of revenue between 2023 and 2026, a cycle that will include the women’s and men’s World Cups.

It also suggested that about $US435 million would be spent staging the 2023 tournament in Australia and New Zealand, less than one-quarter of what it spent on the men’s World Cup in Qatar.

This is the first time that sponsorship and broadcast rights have been sold separately for the two tournaments, with the 2019 Women’s World Cup attracting over 1 billion global viewers, a number FIFA expects to skyrocket this year.

The biggest request in the players’ letter, however, is for a global collective bargaining agreement. While some nations such as Australia, the USA, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Brazil, and Norway have national collective bargaining agreements, not all women’s national teams have union representation that allows them to negotiate with their federations.

As such, FIFPro is in negotiations with FIFA to introduce a global framework that enables these players to be protected and empowered when it comes to dealing with their own federations around issues of contracts, payment structures, minimum standards, pregnancy policies, medical insurance, and resourcing.

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Australia and the United States currently have two of the most robust collective bargaining agreements in women’s international football, with each federation pooling commercial revenues (and, in the case of the USA, FIFA-distributed prize money) and dividing it equally between men’s and women’s teams.

The PFA and Australia’s national teams have begun negotiations on their next collective bargaining agreement, which expires during the Women’s World Cup.

There is no deadline provided by the players in the letter, nor are there any threats of boycotts or strikes, which a number of women’s national teams have participated in recently due to ongoing issues with management and their federations more broadly.

“Accelerating the growth and development of women’s football on and off the pitch is a top priority for FIFA,” a FIFA spokesperson said.

“To do so, FIFA is investing significant time and resources in the following areas: reforming competitions; enhancing the game’s commercial value; modernizing women’s development programs; and enhancing the professionalisation of women’s football, both on and off the pitch.”

Australia’s PFA has welcomed the initiative by the players and FIFPro in building upon the principles it began back in 2019.

“Players domestically and internationally continue to illustrate their solidarity and commitment to advancing the interests of the players and the broader industry, despite the barriers placed in their way,” co-chief executive Kate Gill said.

“Progress is rarely straightforward, but always dependent upon a commitment to upholding what are shared values, which in this case are fairness, dignity, and respect.

“In partnership with FIFPro and our fellow unions, we will continue to play our part in the pursuit of a better industry for the players and the entire sport.”