KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Future decisions on host rights for the Women’s World Cup will almost certainly be taken by the annual congress of international governing body FIFA rather than by its 37-member council.

This prospect was raised by FIFA president Gianni Infantino after all Europe’s nine council members voted with the ‘party line’ for Colombia – in vain – on Thursday in the ballot which saw the 2023 Women’s World Cup awarded to Australia and New Zealand.

The Home of FIFA in Zurich

Infantino was pressed, after the meeting, on the political nature of the UEFA delegates’ gesture, in defiance of the conclusions of the bidding evaluation report.

He said he was “surprised” but added diplomatically: “Everyone is free to vote. This is democracy and the votes decide. The report is one element and there are other elements which guide people to take decisions.

‘Difficult decision’

“For the future maybe we should bring this decision to the FIFA Congress to decide because there is no reason to treat men and women differently. It doesn’t make sense to me. We can have a more democratic process among the member associations of FIFA.”

It is not always customary for FIFA presidents to vote but Infantino cast his ballot in favour of Australia and New Zealand.

He said: “I studied carefully the files. It was a difficult decision for me but it is difficult for a FIFA president to choose between one or other of the member associations. I’m sure Colombia would have been able to organise a fantastic tournament.

“I was criticising FIFA, in the past [as UEFA general secretary], for not giving enough attention to the technical report. We showed for the men’s 2026 World Cup bid — and we showed it again for the 2023 Women’s bid — that these reports have to mean something.

“It was not the case in the old FIFA but it is the case in the new FIFA and I am proud of that.”

Prize money will be doubled yet again for the 2023 finals but not by as much as Infantino would like because of a contracts complication.

He said: “Our hands are still a bit tied up by old contracts done by the old FIFA when it was all the men’s World Cup and everything else was given as a gift. When we get out of these contracts- and unfortunately for many of these it will not be for 2023 – we will be able to commercialise the Women’s World Cup [appropriately].”

UEFA, in a statement explaining its voting decision, said: “Even though the Colombian bid was not the one rated highest technically by FIFA, European members of the FIFA Council felt that it represented a strategic opportunity for the development of women’s football in South America thanks to the legacy and increase of attention for the women’s game that the tournament would bring to the continent.

“It was a choice between two countries – Australia and New Zealand – where women’s football is already strongly established, and a continent where it still has to be firmly implanted and has a huge development potential.

“It’s important to add that European members of the FIFA Council agreed to vote together on major issues as a matter of solidarity.”