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Putin Says FIFA President Sepp Blatter Worthy of Winning Nobel Prize

Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia
Laurence Griffiths/FIFA&mdashGetty Images FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter shakes hands with Vladimir Putin, President of Russia ahead of the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The Russian president does not believe Sepp Blatter is involved in corruption

Vladimir Putin said that FIFA President Sepp Blatter “deserves the Nobel Prize.”

The Russian president spoke favorably of Blatter in an interview with a Swiss broadcaster on Monday, invoking the indictments of other FIFA officials on bribery and fraud charges and saying, “I don’t want to go into details but I don’t believe a word about him being involved in corruption personally,” Reuters reports.

Putin added that Blatter’s fellow “heads of big international sporting federations, or the Olympic Games, deserve special recognition. If there is anyone who deserves the Nobel Prize, it’s those people.”

Russia will host the FIFA World Cup in 2018; by then, Blatter will no longer be president, as he has announced that he will resign when a FIFA Congress elects his successor on Feb. 26, 2016.

 

TIME society

How to Solve the Gender Wage Gap in International Soccer

The usual go-to explanation of the huge disparities—supply and demand—seems to fall a little short

As I watched the Women’s World Cup final recently with my family, my 11-year-old son, who plays on a local soccer team, remarked that he was amazed at how quickly and how often the U.S. team scored.

“Seriously, Dad, teams don’t just score like that in soccer.”

Of course, he was right. The match set a record for most combined goals scored in a FIFA final for either men or women.

It’s that level of action and excitement that made the game the most-watched soccer event in U.S. history.

The Nielsen overnight rating for the women’s final was 15.2, with more than 25.4 million viewers in the U.S. By comparison, the men’s final last year received a 9.1 Nielsen rating, with 17.3 million viewers. (That US viewers had skin in the game in the women’s final tells only part of the story, but more on that and global viewership later.)

Shortly after the game, however, some took to Twitter to point out a less favorable disparity:

This is a shockingly huge pay gap, and looks even worse when considering that the US men’s team, which lost in the first round last year, earned US$9 million for their efforts.

The usual go-to explanation of such disparities, “it’s all supply and demand,” seems to fall a little short given that the demand (people watching the game) was actually greater for the women’s team than for that of the winning German men’s team, at least in terms of US viewership. But, in fact, this explanation does help in understanding why the gap exists. It also suggests a solution: increase demand.

Where do other sports stand?

The pay gap between the women’s team and men’s team for the FIFA World Cup Finals is significant. The male-female ratio for the payout is 17.5 (men’s pay divided by women’s). That is, men earn $17.50 for every $1 earned by women for winning the championship game. For comparison, see the chart below showing wages and prize money for men versus women for the sports in which men and women have equal or similar representation.

The FIFA ratio is considerably greater than those for the U.S. and British Open golf tournaments, though not quite as large as that of professional basketball – the average NBA player earn 65 times as much as a woman in the WNBA. Tennis, notably, has been awarding men and women equal prize money for years. Wimbledon became the last Grand Slam to do so in 2007.

Where sports revenue comes from

So why are women tennis players paid the same as male players at Wimbledon but not for the FIFA World Cup? The difference comes down to how the sports generate revenue, which does not primarily come from ticket sales, as some believe.

Basketball is a case in point. Walking through the revenue model for an NBA team relative to a WNBA team is revealing. The average NBA team generates 25% to 30% of its total revenue from ticket sales. The lion’s share of revenue comes from local and national broadcast rights. (Here’s a link to the New Jersey Nets’ profit and loss statement – very revealing.)

The current NBA television deal, which provides networks the right to broadcast games during the regular season and gives specific networks rights to broadcast different rounds in the playoffs, is around $930 million, or approximately $31 million per team. Local television deals can add another $25 to $30 million.

The Los Angeles Lakers, for example, reaped $122 million in 2013 selling their local broadcasting rights (and are set to earn much more in coming years), while other marquee teams typically earn $30 million to $40 million.

By contrast, the WNBA in 2012 signed an extension on its national broadcast deal in the amount of $12 million per year (about $1 million per team).

If the local broadcast deal for a WNBA team is similar to its national deal (as is the case with the men), then a women’s team likely generates about $2 million per year in broadcast rights, compared with more than $55 million in the NBA.

The revenue gap makes some sense when considering that the average attendance for a NBA game is 17,000, compared with 7,500 per WNBA game, and that the men play 41 home games a year, compared with 17 for women. In this case, the demand and supply explanation works very well. There is clearly greater demand for NBA games than for WNBA games, and, as a result, revenues are significantly higher, as are the salaries.

Tennis v. soccer

Tennis is a less complex beast. The men and the women (at major tournaments) are playing at the same venue, the broadcasters are purchasing a bundle of programming that includes both men’s and women’s matches, and tickets are priced according to the round in the tournament, the location of the match (marquee matches are played in the premier court relative to the surrounding courts) and the seats within the stadium.

The revenue generated by the tournament is a function of both men and women, so women deserve an equal share. And women have had a terrific advocate in Billie Jean King, who started pushing for equality in tennis nearly four decades ago.

The Women’s World Cup, unfortunately, looks much more like basketball than tennis. FIFA releases annual reports of its financials – income and expenses relating to promoting and running various FIFA events.

Looking back at 2011 (the last time the women played in the World Cup), FIFA reported television revenue of $550 million, of which $537 million was from presales for the 2014 Men’s World Cup. The remaining $13 million in television revenue was generated from the sale of broadcast rights to a variety of FIFA events, including (presumably) the 2011 Women’s World Cup.

If these types of revenue disparities persisted through the 2014 and 2015 Men’s and Women’s World Cups, the television revenues for the 2015 women’s event was a fraction of the $1 billion plus taken in for the 2014 Brazil games. So one could conclude that the payments to the men’s and women’s teams should be proportional to the revenue generated from the individual events.

This might be a good assumption, except that FIFA spends money on events and promotion of soccer throughout the world that have no chance of paying for themselves. And, if we think about an investment or impact, the Women’s World Cup obviously had a nice reach – the final out-drew the men’s final, at least in the U.S.

It is unclear, however, whether the viewership for the Women’s World Cup was larger than that of the men’s outside of the U.S. (FIFA prepares a television audience outreach document after the World Cup; here is the one from 2010).

Americans had good reason to watch their home team compete in the final, and in a similar time zone no less. We can make a few comparisons with the numbers that have been released from other countries.

The television viewership in Canada for the host team’s game against Switzerland in the round of 16 tallied 2.8 million viewers. That compares with 16.7 million in France who watched its men’s team compete against Switzerland in a group stage game in 2014. France’s population is roughly twice that of Canada, yet viewership was more than six times higher.

So perhaps on a global scale, the supply and demand argument works after all. The women were popular in the U.S., but that is only a very small part of the global market (weak market demand will have downward pressure on prices).

FIFA needs to look ahead

FIFA’s reaction to the underpayment controversy was to suggest that the women haven’t earned a bigger paycheck because the women’s tournament has not run as long as the men’s.

That is really a rubbish argument. I have yet to hear a corporate chief financial officer tell a new worker that she or he can’t be paid their value because the job hasn’t been around long enough – if this were true, most chief technology officers would be earning less than the mailroom staff.

Ultimately I believe FIFA is thinking about this all wrong. The organization should be thinking about this as an investment, an avenue to increase participation in women’s soccer across the globe and a mechanism to propel equality between men and women. Consider the impact that FIFA could have if it spent the time and resources promoting the women’s game with the same intensity it uses for the men’s game. Sports is a powerful vehicle for social change.

Although in the past the women’s tournament generated less money for FiFA than the men’s, no business or sports empire can live in the past and expect to be relevant in the future.

Sporting goods companies know this. To continue to survive and make profit, they think ahead and bet their financial futures on promising young athletes who have not proven themselves. And the companies in turn use their power to guarantee (as much as they can guarantee) a return on investment. Under Armour did a deal with the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry before he helped them win the NBA Championship.

The same argument goes for women’s soccer. In the 2015 FIFA World Cup, women’s soccer proved itself. It likely won’t be long before their earning power rivals the men as their popularity grows.

It’s easy to make an argument about the social justice of equal pay. But if that’s not enough for FIFA, the group would do well to simply think ahead, pursue its self-interest and follow the age-old mantra: “Don’t be stupid.”

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Sports

It’s Much Harder to Get a Ticker-Tape Parade Than It Used to Be

This chart shows one more reason why the celebration for the Women's World Cup team is a true honor

When the U.S. women’s soccer team is honored on Friday with a ticker-tape parade in New York City, to celebrate their World Cup victory, it will be the first such parade in more than three years, and only the fifth of the 2000s. For the city to pull out all the stops is rare these days, so it’s that much more of a big deal.

But, as the chart below shows, it used to be that ticker-tape parades happened practically all the time. In 1953 alone, there were 11 parades, honoring everyone from the King and Queen of Greece to, in honor of the 150th anniversary of City Hall, employees of New York City. Here’s how the frequency of ticker-tape parades has changed over the years:

tickertape

Read more: A Brief History of Ticker-Tape Parades

TIME Soccer

Carli Lloyd Talks World Cup Win and Her Unforgettable Hat Trick

Carli Lloyd us soccer world cup
Elaine Thompson—AP United States' Carli Lloyd celebrates after scoring her third goal against Japan during the first half of the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver on July 5, 2015.

"There was something different in the air"

Soccer star Carli Lloyd hasn’t “slept a wink” since Sunday’s FIFA Women’s World Cup win in Vancouver. But after helping bring the team to victory for the first time since 1999 – and a historic hat-trick – how could she?

“We didn’t come here to take second place. We came here to win it, and there was something different in the air with these last few games with our team,” the 32-year-old midfielder said on Good Morning America on Monday.

“I think we all believed. We all knew it,” she said. “We felt it and what a convincing win today to get it done.”

Nicknamed Captain America after the 5-2 victory against Japan in Vancouver, Lloyd also said she imagined the turn of events back in May while out on a run prepping for the big games. She said during the interview that she visualized herself ahead of time scoring “four or five” goals in the final.

“It’s just crazy what the mind can do,” she added.

The New Jersey native said celebration is taking priority over sleep for the time being.

“[I’ve] barely been able to get through text messages and some of the social media stuff,” she said. “I had some teammates telling me that Mr. President Tweeted me, got to meet Joe Biden today so that was pretty cool.”

“I think it’s huge for women’s soccer,” Lloyd went on. “The energy and atmosphere was just unbelievable this World Cup.”

But the athlete hasn’t fully come to terms with her record-breaking victory just yet. She told the Today show’s Matt Lauer on Monday that it “just didn’t feel real.”

“It was unbelievable, something we have all wanted so long. The heartbreak in 2011, losing to Japan, and then this game – it was just an unbelievable moment, something we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives.”

Lloyd, who has been on the U.S. team since 2005, completed a hat-trick against Japan within the first 16 minutes, an accomplishment she described as “pretty incredible.” (The three-goal maneuver was the fastest hat-trick in World Cup history.)

“It’s hard because you go through these journeys year after year and you’re just so focused on the one thing you have and you don’t ever stop and think about how much you’ve accomplished,” she told Lauer. “I will savor and cherish this moment for a little bit because all the hard work has paid off.”

Lloyd scored goals in four consecutive matches during the tournament, ending with a total of six scoring games. But it wouldn’t have been possible without her teammates, she explained, including Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Abby Wambach.

“We looked down at these stars and one of those stars belongs to us and will always belong to us. We’re just super, super happy,” Lloyd said. “I think that a lot of us needed to pinch ourselves to see if this was really happening just because of the way that it all unfolded from start to finish. It was just an epic journey one will never forget.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Soccer

See the Best Moments From U.S. Soccer’s Victory in the World Cup Final

Team U.S.A. trounced Japan 5-2 on Sunday, achieving their third world championship and the first since 1999.

TIME World Cup

America, Meet Soccer Star Carli Lloyd, Your Newest Sports Hero

in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi-Final Match at Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Canada.
Minas Panagiotakis—Getty Images Carli Lloyd celebrates setting up Kelly O'Hara's goal in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi-Final Match at Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Canada.

Her penalty, and perfect pass to second goal-scorer Kelly O'Hara, ensure a crucial U.S. victory in soccer's World Cup

Going into this year’s women’s World Cup, certain U.S. players stole the spotlight. Abby Wambach, the world’s all-time leading international goal scorer, trying to win her first World Cup in the twilight of her career. Forward Alex Morgan, heir to Mia Hamm. Goaltender Hope Solo, for all the off-field controversies.

But step aside, ladies. For this World Cup is now Carli Lloyd’s.

Lloyd, a two-time Olympic gold medal winner making her third World Cup appearance, is no stranger to soccer fans. But for the millions of more casual viewers tuning into America’s quest for its first World Cup since 1999, she’s now a water-cooler fixture. Lloyd has scored a goal in each of Team USA’s knockout-round victories on the way to the World Cup final, which will be played on July 5, when the U.S. will face the winner of Wednesday’s Japan-England semifinal.

Against Germany in Tuesday night’s semifinal, Lloyd’s second-half penalty kick gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead. Later, Lloyd stayed patient while dribbling in the goal box, waiting until Kelley O’Hara was in position to take her perfect pass and boot the insurance goal into the net. U.S. 2, Germany 0.

So America, if you’re not already invested in the World Cup, meet Carli Lloyd. A few quick essentials:

1. Lloyd has a history of shining in big moments: Sports Illustrated put her on the cover of its World Cup preview, with the tagline: “She’s Got Clutch.” No cover jinx in this World Cup — far from it. Lloyd scored the gold-medal winning goals in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. All this bodes well for Team USA’s chances on Sunday.

2. Her ex-Team USA coach, Pia Sundhage, dissed Lloyd in a New York Times profile that ran earlier in the World Cup.

“Carli Lloyd was a challenge to coach, by the way,” Sundhage said offhandedly at one point, her fork dangling as she considered Lloyd, who is a top midfielder for the United States. “When she felt that we had faith in her, she could be one of the best players. But if she began to question that faith, she could be one of the worst.”

She took a bite of salad. “It was so delicate, so, so delicate,” she said.

But so, so good. If coaching Lloyd, 32, has been a challenge, it’s certainly been worth any headaches. Lloyd called Sundhage’s comments “confusing.” America and Sweden played to a 0-0 draw during the knockout stage of this year’s World Cup.

3. Lloyd, who grew up in southern New Jersey and attended Rutgers University, credits a lot of her success to training with a former Australian pro player named James Galanis, described by the Wall Street Journal as “paunchy and bespectacled,” and someone who “comes off like a wizard instructor from the Harry Potter films.” Lloyd was supposed to take a ski trip with some friends while she was at Rutgers; Galanis told her if she was serious about making the US team, she had to skip the vacation.

To the cheers of many Americans, Lloyd put in the work. All that’s left is a World Cup win.

TIME World Cup

In Women’s World Cup, U.S. Feels Weight of Expectations

Members of China's national team take part in a training session at Lansdowne Stadium in Ottawa on June 25, 2015 on the eve of their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal match against the US.
Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images Members of China's national team take part in a training session at Lansdowne Stadium in Ottawa on June 25, 2015 on the eve of their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal match against the US.

It's not enough for the Americans to just beat China in Friday's quarterfinal

They haven’t lost a single game in this World Cup. They haven’t given up a goal since the opener, stringing together a remarkable 333-minute shutout streak. On Friday night, they face China—a team that hasn’t beaten them in 24 matches, dating back to 2003—in the World Cup quarterfinals. They’re three games away from a championship.

So why all this anxiety about the U.S. women’s soccer team?

Despite the wins—and a scoreless draw with Sweden in group play—the team has drawn more critics than cheers. Eric Wynalda, the former men’s national team player and commentator for Fox, went so far as to call the team’s performance against Colombia, a 2-0 U.S. win in the round of 16, “pathetic.”

Wynalda, and other pundits, have pointed fingers at the coach, Jill Ellis, for the team’s lack of offensive dynamism. She’s employed a defensive-minded game plan—which has clearly worked. So far. If the team couldn’t rack up more goals against early-round competition, the U.S. will be in trouble against a Germany, France, or Japan. “There’s been a lack of offensive flow and rhythm,” said former U.S. star Julie Foudy, a member of the last American team to win a World Cup, in 1999. “They’re not creating a lot of chances, they’re not taking players on, it’s really been four stagnant games.”

OK, but what about all that winning? Does it count for anything? According to Foudy, an ESPN analyst, the complaining has a bright side: we gripe because we care. “It really speaks to the growth of the game here, that we’re all debating it, we’re talking about it, we’re not content with just winning anymore,” said Foudy. “Sure, you can win on good defense. And sure you can grind it out. But really, with more support, more funding, more kids playing in the United States, why are we relying on grinding it out anymore?”

For the Americans, the beautiful game needs to be more beautiful. To that end, Foudy’s hoping that Ellis will deploy three scoring forwards—perhaps a combo of Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and Sydney LeRoux—against China, instead of the usual two. Such a formation would ease the burden on the veteran Wambach, 35, who has had to cover more ground in the two-forward set. “For her to be chasing balls down on into the corner flag is crazy to me,” Foudy said. “That’s not her game.”

Bottom line, Foudy wants Ellis to shake up the game plan now, before trying it out against Germany or France in the semis. Not that the U.S. can look past China. They’ve got strong goalkeeping, and can cause trouble off set pieces. China faced the U.S. in the epic ’99 final, but women’s soccer has declined in that country since that time: as the New York Times reports, only some 6,000 or 7,000 female players above the age of 12 are registered to play. Parents are more likely to stress school over soccer, which offers few opportunities beyond the national team. But China’s president, Xi Jinping, likes soccer, and is backing a plan to revive the game.

Heading into Friday night’s game, the U.S. is also missing midfielders Megan Rapinoe, who along with goaltender Hope Solo has probably been America’s MVP this tournament, and Lauren Holiday, who’ve been issued two yellow cards in the tournament, and thus have to sit out a game. Still, said Foudy, “the U.S. should be absolutely fine” against China.

Fine, however, is no longer fine. The Americans need to win big to temper all this stress. Until the next game at least.

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