Rebecca Lowe on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz.

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has seen a lot of spectacular goals on the field. It’s even seen a refreshing lack of off-field issues with hosts Australia and New Zealand, with maybe the biggest debate there so far on if the New Zealand city of Palmerston North is “boring” or not. But there are notable off-field issues here still, and they’re more focused on the overall way FIFA and its member federations have treated the women’s players in comparison to the men’s players at past World Cups. And Rebecca Lowe spotlighted some of that in an interview with Michael Ryan Ruiz on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz Tuesday:

Here’s the full context of that clip, which starts around the 8:37 mark of the overall interview:

That starts with Ruiz saying “I want to talk to you about what for me is in equal parts a great story, but also a sad story, when you dive into the history of the Colombian soccer federation and their treatment of women. We’re talking about sexual harassment, we’re talking about withheld wages, we’re talking about the same oppressors that are keeping this power dynamic in their federation actually taking the wages from one tournament over there. And yet, in the face of that, Colombia are having a magical run in this tournament with a brilliant 19-year-old [she’s actually 18] that you can make an argument ‘Is Linda Caicedo the best player in the world right now?’ Certainly the most in-form.”

Lowe, known for her Premier League work for NBC and her After the Whistle Apple News original podcast on women’s soccer with Brendan Hunt of Ted Lasso fame, says “Oh, I think you’re right, most in-form. What she can do on the football field is very, very rare. She runs around defenders like they’re not there. She has played, guys, she just turned 19? Because she has played in three World Cups in a year. She played for the under-17s, so she was turning 18, the under-20s, and now, at the senior World Cup. I mean, there’s very few people if any who have done something like that. She is somebody, remember the name, Linda Caicedo, you’re going to know that name for the next 10-15 years.”

“But to go back to what you said about the federation, Mike, this is the problem with the Women’s World Cup. When Brendan and I did an A to Zee, or as you guys would say, an A to Zed, for each team, virtually every team has an issue with their federation, whether it is issues of sexual abuse or payments or simply they can’t even seem to get them on the right flight altogether. It’s an absolute joke that the men get treated the way they do at the World Cup six months ago, and because of the way the Qatar World Cup was changed to December, we have this juxtaposition six months apart. Let’s look at how the men are treated, let’s look at how the women are treated. It’s an absolute disgrace, guys. And we have to air it as much as we can to try and get these things to move forward.”

“Jamaica is another one. Jamaica, their organization, the players didn’t even know what airport they were supposed to be going to. It really is a disgrace. And the U.S. women’s national team have done a lot to try and move things forward in terms of equal pay. Thank god for them. But it is the slowest domino effect in the history of the world, by the way. It’s an absolute shambles.”

Those are certainly strong comments from Lowe. And there’s merit to them. Beyond the specific examples she cites with Colombia and Jamaica, there have been many discussions about pay, harassment and more for a lot of these teams.

And there are FIFA-wide issues; the organization has talked a big game about improving compensation for players, including giving them some direct payments (rather than through federations) for the first time, but women are still expected to make around 25 cents on the dollar relative to the men, and the federations are still receiving more money than the players (which is a problem, given how many of these federations are run). And while FIFA did sell broadcast rights to this tournament separately in many countries, they weren’t always able to get what they had hoped for there, and only struck a deal with the “Big 5” (Italy, Germany, France, the UK, and Spain) European countries a month before the tournament.

So there are plenty of problems that can be spotlighted. The Women’s World Cup is certainly doing well from an audience standpoint (especially considering that it’s played in time zones that are challenging for North American and European viewers), and it’s doing well from a quality of play perspective, producing memorable results and highlights (including some from Caicedo, who definitely deserves that spotlight). But there are ongoing issues with international women’s soccer, both around FIFA and around individual federations. And it makes sense for Lowe and Ruiz to discuss those as part of the overall picture here.

[The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on YouTube]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.