2015 Women’s World Cup Pre-Draw Press Conference


Just hours after a searing piece entitled “Inaction and Inequality on Women’s World Cup Turf Issue” appeared on NYTimes.com, FIFA secretary-general Jérôme Valcke made it plain that FIFA did not believe it was complicit in any kind of gender discrimination with regards to the 2015 Cup being played on artificial turf.

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In a press conference yesterday afternoon that went from defensive to disdainful, Valcke referred to any allegations of discrimination as being “completely crazy,” and that he was “amazed” at the size of the discussion around the use of turf at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. In doing so, any notions that the pending legal action pursued by top female players through the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario was being taken seriously by football’s governing body were soundly dismissed.

Responding to questions about whether or not he had any forthcoming plans to meet with some of the players associated with the turf issue, as was originally reported by several outlets earlier this week, the secretary-general stated that he had no intentions of speaking with any players by phone, because he preferred face-to-face communication.

Few if any of the players involved will be in Canada for the draw. The US and Brazilian national teams are currently in Brazil, preparing for the International Tournament of Brasilia.

Valcke’s attitude had the potential to overwhelm the bigger news of which teams will be seeded, and how the groups will be drawn:

  • Pot 1, seeded teams: Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, United States
  • Pot 2, CAF/CONCACAF/OFC: Cameroon, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria
  • Pot 3, AFC/CONMEBOL: Australia, China PR, Colombia, Ecuador, Korea Republic, Thailand
  • Pot 4, UEFA: England, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

Each group will draw one team per pot. But where there are decisions involving FIFA, there will also be drama. It’s strange that fifth-ranked Sweden didn’t land in the pot of seeded teams, while sixth-ranked Brazil did. The official explanation seems to be an issue of geography:

"As a general principle, no group can contain more than one team from the same geographical zone. However, given that there will be eight UEFA representatives present at Canada 2015, two groups will inevitably contain two European teams."

As France and Germany were already in Pot 1, Sweden ended up with the short straw. Whatever group draws Sweden will invariably be a Group of Death, and with England ranked seventh and Australia ranked tenth, at least two of the six groups should contain very stiff competition.

The press conference also revealed that the 2019 World Cup will be played on grass, given the bids currently under consideration by France and South Korea. It’s worth noting that Valcke divulged this news without any trace of irony in his voice. Additionally, goal-line technology will be in use for the first time in a women’s tournament. It made its major tournament debut at the men’s World Cup this past summer in Brazil.

Finally, the secretary-general also announced that the prize money for the tournament had increased from $10M to $15M. Jeff Kassouf summed up my feelings on this quite nicely:

For a full replay of the world’s most passive aggressive press conference, FIFATV has made it available on Youtube. The FIFA Women’s World Cup Draw will be broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 and on Telemundo today at noon EST.