The international players’ union, Fifpro, has reported that several players participating in the FIFA WWC 2023 qualifying faced substandard playing conditions and inadequate medical support. A survey of 362 players revealed that 29% did not receive payment for qualification games. Discover FIFA WWC 2023: Sub-standard pitches and lack of medical checks spoil qualifying.
Sarah Gregorius, the lead for women’s football at Fifpro, stated that any percentage below 100% in terms of access to essential medical checks is unacceptable. The union aims to collaborate with FIFA and the confederations to address these issues and prevent their recurrence.
Additionally, the survey, which included players from all six FIFA confederations, highlighted various concerns. It found that 54% of players did not undergo a pre-tournament medical examination, 70% did not receive heart monitoring before qualifying matches, and 39% lacked access to mental health support. Some players expressed dissatisfaction with the support provided, stating that the professionals assigned to them were inexperienced and did not fully understand the pressures of playing at the international level.
Financial struggles were also prevalent among participants, with two-thirds of players having to take unpaid leave or leave their other jobs to participate in qualifying matches. Only 40% of respondents identified themselves as professional footballers. Inadequate facilities and scheduling issues were additional points of contention. Many players felt that training pitches, match day pitches, stadiums, recovery facilities, and gym facilities did not meet elite standards. Scheduling problems resulted in insufficient rest time between matches, with some players having as little as one day between national team duty and club training.
Efforts to Improve Conditions for FIFA WWC 2023
Furthermore, the qualification format itself was called into question by Fifpro. The union criticized the process for relying too heavily on performance in other tournaments and suggested that World Cup qualification should be a standalone event across all confederations. UEFA was the only confederation to host a dedicated qualification tournament, with players participating in up to 12 matches for qualification, whereas other tournaments involved a maximum of seven games. Conmebol, the South American confederation, faced the challenge of scheduling qualification matches for the World Cup, Olympics, and Pan-American Games within the same month.
Despite these concerns, Fifpro acknowledged that FIFA had made efforts to ensure that players in the upcoming World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand receive similar conditions to their male counterparts in the previous tournament. However, the union emphasized the importance of extending these improvements to the qualification process as well. Fifpro called for a comprehensive evaluation of the qualification processes in all six confederations to bring about meaningful changes and provide greater opportunities for women’s football beyond just the final tournament.