Football Australia chief executive James Johnson is optimistic that players will be free to wear rainbow armbands at this summer’s Women’s World Cup.
Six European countries, including England, decided against their captains wearing the anti-discrimination ‘One Love’ armband in Qatar after FIFA informed associations their players would be punished with a yellow card. This news came just hours before Gareth Southgate’s side played Iran in their first game.
The Lionesses have previously indicated their desire to wear the armband in Australia and that a decision on whether they can do so should be made well in advance of the tournament.
Johnson stressed that there is still a way to go in discussions but believes FIFA have learned from their experiences in Qatar and is hopeful a positive outcome will be reached.
‘It’s not at the end point, we’re in the middle of that process,’ Johnson told Mail Sport. ‘I know that FIFA will be talking to the players as well ahead of the World Cup so that we can land in a place where players, within the regulations, can express themselves on certain issues.
Football Australia chief executive James Johnson is optimistic that players will be free to wear rainbow armbands (pictured above) at this summer’s Women’s World Cup
Six European countries, including England, decided against their captains wearing the anti-discrimination ‘One Love’ armband in Qatar after being threatened with a yellow card
The Lionesses have previously indicated their desire to wear the armband in Australia
‘We’re pretty confident in the direction this is going. FIFA talked about the lessons they had in Qatar, they are engaged with us on this issue as hosts. We’d like to see some exceptions within the competition’s regulations that players can express themselves over issues they feel are important.’
Australia have their own plans to support social causes, which includes LGBTQ+, Indigenous and First Nation rights — issues Johnson says are important to their players.
‘It’s important for us as the competition hosts, because that reflects who we are as a country — where people can express themselves and can use platforms to make points about certain issues. It is important the hosts and FIFA, the other participating member associations like the FA and ultimately the players, have those discussions.’
Another major talking point around the tournament concerns the broadcast deals. FIFA president Gianni Infantino threatened a TV blackout due to what he described as ‘unacceptable’ bids from the big five countries: the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain. Johnson says he understands FIFA’s frustrations and urged countries to pay fair market value.
‘We’re trying to host the best Women’s World Cup of all time, that’s our goal. That should be everyone’s goal,’ Johnson said. ‘Our KPI (key performance indicator) is to hit 2 billion people. We understand why FIFA are frustrated about this issue, we also encourage the broadcasters to come on board and pay true market value, fair market value.
‘I think there is a big gap of what the broadcasters are currently paying. If we’re hitting 2 billion for the women’s game and the Qatar World Cup hit 5 billion, then the women’s game is a 40 per cent viewership of what the men’s game is. It’s a good measuring stick.’
Johnson is confident, though, that Infantino’s threat of a blackout will be averted.
‘There’s enough goodwill around the world,’ he said. ‘Everyone wants women’s football to be bigger and bigger and it is becoming bigger and bigger. That requires more than just the host countries and FIFA, it does require broadcasters to, not pay over value, but to pay fair market value. I think there will be a resolution, we’re hopeful of it.’
Johnson (above) was at Wembley to watch Australia captain Sam Kerr score the only goal as Chelsea beat Manchester United to win the FA Cup on Sunday
He said Australia are ‘very proud’ of Kerr, claiming she’s a ‘great footballer and leader’
Johnson, who believes the Matildas are in the best place possible going into this summer’s tournament, was at Wembley to watch Australia captain Sam Kerr score the only goal as Chelsea beat Manchester United to win the FA Cup on Sunday.
‘We’re very proud to have Sam Kerr, she’s a great footballer, but she’s a great leader as well. She’s equally impressive off the field as she is on the field. To have a player and a person like that, who leads not only the Matildas but really is a leader for Australian football, we’re extremely proud.
‘These sorts of tournaments, the teams who go to the deep parts —you need great leaders and players. To have Sam leading that charge gives us a lot of confidence.’
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