Under the outgoing Funding Assistance Program (FAP), national federations are required to spend 15 per cent of their annual $US250,000 payment from FIFA directly on women’s football. This mandate also applies to most of the bonuses federations have been given in recent years*.
“This is an obligatory provision and it is of huge importance to the further development of the women's game,” wrote FIFA’s then acting secretary general, Markus Kattner late last year, in a letter accompanying funding application forms.
But an analysis of spending around the world has revealed around 1 in 8 national federations failed to meet that required spend at least once in recent years. And a number of repeat offenders continued to have their funding applications approved**.
The worst performers include Saudi Arabia, the small West African country of Togo and Brunei Darussalam, the tiny sultanate in the Indonesian archipelago which allocated no FAP money allocated to the women’s game in either 2013 or 2014, and only a small amount in 2015.
Togo hasn’t passed on a cent of this money to the women’s game since the beginning of 2012, the year when FIFA started publishing national FAP budgets online.
It was a similar story with Saudi Arabia in the two years it received FAP money.
FAP is being replaced by the FIFA Forward funding model, which is not only more generous, but - FIFA says - also designed to be more transparent.
Others are concerned, however, that the Forward program’s more complicated structure could make funding benchmarks more difficult to monitor and enforce.
Moya Dodd, Australia’s representative on the AFC Executive Committee and a former member of the FIFA Council, says it can be difficult to monitor funding across so many federations.
But she also believes these benchmarks should be a minimum commitment.
“I think there's a growing realisation among federations all over the world that women's football is not just a condition of FIFA funding - it's also a very good idea,” she says via e-mail.
"To really unlock the women's game, we need not only mandated development spend, but also genuine investment to give girls and women the same opportunities to participate as their brothers.”
Dodd calls the women’s game football’s “biggest growth opportunity”, and it’s clear that those who have spent well are reaping the rewards.
Japan, which won the 2011 Women’s World Cup and came runner up in 2015 - was the only federation to allocate over a million dollars in FAP funding to the development of women’s games from 2012-2015.
Australia, which has risen to 5th on the FIFA rankings on the back of its unprecedented success at the last Women’s World Cup, and is considered a good medal chance in Rio - allocated the second most to women’s football in that period: $US750,000.
"We are proud that Australia is seen as one of the leading nations in the development of women’s football,” Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop told Zela.
“FFA has been open and strong about its long-term commitment to the growth of women’s football.
“Over the last few years, FFA has increased its financial commitment to women’s football at the elite, grassroots and women’s development levels.” ***
While Japan and Australia are the good news stories, Asia has plenty of representation at the other end of the scale too.
Of the more-than-two-dozen federations who failed to meet FAP benchmarks around the world, almost half came from Asia.
Africa also had a poor record, with Zimbabwe, Libya and Morocco amongst those who let their women down.
Collectively, FIFA’s federations budgeted $US60.65 million of their FAP funds to women’s football in the 2012-2015 window. That’s just 14.76 per cent of FAP funding worldwide, meaning a global failure to meet FIFA’s benchmark.
It’s significantly less than what was directly allocated on men’s football (19.57 per cent), and is eclipsed by the $US80 million in pay rises and bonuses alleged to have been paid to disgraced former president Sepp Blatter, and his two underlings, Jerome Valcke and Markus Kattner, over a similar timeframe.
Dodd has been a leading advocate for reform in FIFA, particularly around funding equality, and says progress is being made in this area.
“It's the biggest growth opportunity for football. That's why so many of us lobbied hard for FIFA reforms that would not just mandate development spending, but would also address the balance of resourcing more broadly, and change the decision-making culture and environment.
"FIFA has sought to encourage investment in women's football via FAP grants … (and that has been) replaced with a much larger development program called Forward, which will dedicate more to women's football, and I'm excited to see the difference that it will make.
“FIFA itself is investing more and more, and I hope the members follow."
* FAP funding is different to GOAL funding, which is allocated on a case-by-case basis.
** We looked at FAP budgets from 2012 - the year FIFA started publishing this information online - to the end of 2015 - since not all of this year’s FAP funding allocations have yet been published.
*** The rest of Australia’s FAP money was allocated to youth football ($US625,000) and the men’s game ($US425,000). No money was budgeted in other categories, such as refereeing, infrastructure, medical, marketing and event management.