Football Australia working with Fifa create an environment CEO James Johnson will address the players’ LGBTQ+ rights and challenges at the Women’s World Cup in Australia this summer. New Zeland.
Qatar was a controversial choice to host the men’s tournament, in part because of the country’s stance on same-sex relationships, which are directly criminalized under Gulf state law.
While teams in this competition, including England, initially promised to wear rainbow-coloured “OneLove” armbands, the gesture was rescinded at 11 hours after FIFA indicated there could be sporting sanctions as a result.
Women’s football has historically been perceived as a much more welcoming environment for the LGBTQ+ community, with many players out there and championing equality, which Johnson agrees is at the forefront of the host nation’s priorities.
“Football Australia (wants) wants to use it to transform the tournament,” Johnson told the PA news agency. “We were doing this before the Women’s World Cup, you saw a world class equal pay deal, you saw management changes around our game where there was equal representation on the boards for both men and women.
“The other part, the competitive part, we want players to be able to express themselves freely, so we’re working with FIFA to put some mechanisms in place and allow players to be able to do that. Our own team is very socially oriented, very sensitive to issues, so we have a team that allows them to say what’s on their minds. We want to provide an environment.
“This is important not only for Football Australia, but also for Australia as a culture.”
Australia is one of 32 countries where same-sex marriage is legal after the law was passed in December 2017.
England striker Beth Mead, who is in a relationship with Arsenal teammate and Dutch striker Vivianne Miedema, was among the high-profile players to oppose the host selection for the men’s show.
The Australian men’s socceroos released a video outlining their concerns about the country’s human rights record ahead of the tournament in Qatar, while the women’s national team Matildas wore rainbow pride-themed tricks during their Nations Cup game against Spain earlier this week.
Johnson isn’t yet sure what will be allowed when the World Cup starts on July 20 – it’s ultimately up to tournament organizers FIFA – but he reiterated: “These are the kinds of issues that matter to our players. Ultimately, FIFA is the competition organiser, so this is they will have to make a decision.
“The situation is that we need to let our players in our country talk about the problems. Now, it’s going to be about a degree and a bit of specificity, but we think it’s going to be important not just for our players, but for other players around the world as well.”
Johnson’s organization claimed they were taken by surprise by recent rumors that Visit Saudi will sign up as World Cup sponsor. Although still unconfirmed, the alleged deal has sparked widespread criticism and many have pointed to Saudi Arabia’s track record on women’s rights – the country ranks 127 out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s latest gender gap index ranking.
Australian Football and New Zealand Football wrote to FIFA to voice their concerns, and the PA understood that the global board had sent a response saying they were ready to engage in an open dialogue that Johnson hopes will begin in the next few weeks.
On Monday, it was announced that both the men’s and women’s sides of Australia will face their British counterparts in 2023. The Lionesses will welcome Matildas at Brentford in preparation for the World Cup on April 11, while Gareth Southgate’s side will receive the Socceroos. At Wembley on 13 October.
Johnson believes Australia’s unique geography, combined with targeted timing to maximize global broadcast windows, will enable two million viewers to watch the tournament – doubling the viewership of the previous iteration in France.
The choice to meet England was just as deliberate, a move to ensure the Australian national teams face the best sides in the world – or, in the Lionesses’ case, a move that could leave Johnson’s country with the world’s top prize.
“Absolutely favourites. I think they will fit very comfortably. I’m sure they will be everyone’s favourite,” said the Australian, “Or I can say the second favorite team.”