FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

Photo: Adidas

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will take place this year, from July 20 to August 20, in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. 

In preparation for the tournament, the Australian Human Rights Commission, in partnership with FIFA and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, released their Human Rights Risk Assessment report, conducted in 2021 in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The Sport & Rights Alliance took part in the consultation, as did World Players Association and World Players affiliate Professional Footballers Australia (the PFA).

The FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup Human Rights Risk Assessment was widely praised as a successful example of meaningful and transparent stakeholder consultation. Yet that has not made this year’s tournament without its challenges.

Reports earlier this year revealed FIFA had chosen Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Authority, under its “Visit Saudi” brand, as a sponsor of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. This decision was apparently made without any human rights due diligence or consultation with affected groups. 

Though FIFA President Gianni Infantino later announced the deal would not move forward, this was only after receiving a tidal wave of criticism from civil society and star athletes like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Vivianne Miedema on the hypocrisy and danger of allowing a women’s rights abuser to sponsor a women’s sporting event.

Now, less than a year after the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar, which revealed significant backsliding within FIFA on human rights, all eyes are on Oceania to see whether FIFA will step up its game.

Gender Equity

As the most celebrated women’s sporting event across the globe, the Women’s World Cup has a special responsibility to not only promote, but ensure gender equity across all its operations. Until recently, the prize money offered at the Women’s World Cup was just 7.5% of that offered at the Men’s World Cup. 

As highlighted in the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup Human Rights Risk Assessment, other gender-related human rights risks include: 

  • Discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual preference and race (including transgender players due to FIFA rules)
  • Endemic harassment and abuse, including when children in sport
  • Threats to the health, safety and wellbeing of players, including unsafe workplaces not tailored to suit women and girls
  • Appropriate representation of women from diverse backgrounds, such as First Nations and women of colour, in the presentation of media coverage
  • Gaps in consistent access to trusted, accessible and transparent grievance mechanisms, or access to a comprehensive overarching mechanism that can deal with all complaints

FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup Human Rights Risk Assessment 

Athlete & Worker Rights

Another set of risks salient to the 2023 Women’s World Cup are athlete and worker rights. As highlighted by Professional Footballers Australia, all athletes should be recognised as workers, with rights to freedom of association, collective bargaining and other workers rights which are still nonexistent or under threat in many countries who will send teams to Australia and New Zealand. Key risks for migrant and young workers and volunteers, as well as for workers in construction, hospitality, cleaning, consumer goods and security were also identified. 

Other risks to athletes and workers include:

  • Threats to mental health, including psychological distress, addiction and depression
  • Restrictions on freedom of expression, including with respect to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics
  • Denial of an education
  • Exploitation, human trafficking, refoulement and precarious status
  • Work health and safety, underpayment
  • Sexual harassment and abuse

FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup Human Rights Risk Assessment 

Risks to Journalists, Fans & Local Communities

Outside of players and workers, there are many other individuals who are affected by impacts of a mega sporting event, such as fans, journalists and local communities. For the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which will be held across 10 venues and 9 cities, civil society organizations have raised the following risks for these groups: 

  • Privacy & safety risks due to tournament security protocols, especially for transgender attendees
  • Spectator racism & discrimination against ethnic and faith-based minorities
  • Violence and alcohol-related risks
  • Freedom of expression, including to display the rainbow flag or other relevant signs and symbols at stadiums, “Fanfests” and related tournament sites
  • Access to all-gender bathrooms

The Goal: Defending & Advancing Human Rights

As the organizer of the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, FIFA has a responsibility to ensure this competition does not cause or contribute to human rights abuses – either in the preparation for or during the tournament itself. It must also seek to prevent, mitigate, and provide solutions for negative human rights impacts that are linked to their operations, even if they have not directly contributed. This includes ensuring gender equity, freedom of association and expression, decent work and freedom from discrimination, and all human rights for those who attend, work at, or play in the tournament.

Learn More

Explore these resources to learn more about the work to advance human rights in and around the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – and stay tuned for additional research, news, and campaigns to get involved.