The souvenir shops — essentially temporary huts erected at venues hosting the group-stage and knockout-round matches — offer a range of official FIFA merchandise that’s far more limited than what’s typically for sale at men’s World Cups or the Olympics.
FIFA isn’t selling pins for the Women’s World Cup, for example, although commemorative pins for decades have been popular keepsakes and currency at World Cups and the Olympics — gobbled up for mementos, gifts and trading with other fans.
For all of FIFA’s sloganeering about the Women’s World Cup’s potential to inspire the next generation of players and fans, its souvenir stands sell just one T-shirt for boys and another for girls, featuring “ettie,” the tournament’s official mascot, a chicken wearing a Breton top, blue shorts and red shoes. The smallest size is for age 6, although a mini-ball, plush toy, magnet and key rings are for sale.
At Le Havre’s Stade Oceane, it was tricky to find the FIFA souvenir stand, tucked around a corner and on the back side of the venue. At Parc de Princes in Paris, the wait was roughly 45 minutes at one of the two shops.
FIFA’s anemic merchandising effort for the most important tournament in women’s soccer is hardly new, said former U.S. women’s team captain Julie Foudy, a two-time World Cup and Olympic gold medal winner. In France to cover the World Cup for ESPN, Foudy recalled being bombarded with souvenir requests from friends and family four years ago, when Canada hosted the 2015 tournament. She told them it would be no problem.
But it was.
“I couldn’t wait an hour and a half in line, and that’s what it was at the stadiums,” Foudy said.
It was worse when the tournament moved to Vancouver for the final.
“Literally, the U.S. fans took over Vancouver that last week,” Foudy recalled. “They would have bought up everything, but you couldn’t find a thing.”
The story was much the same at the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany, she said, with few points of sale for FIFA merchandise, long lines and limited selection.
“It’s what we see over and over again,” said Foudy, a former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “There is a hesitancy to tap into this untapped market, and I don’t get it. When you see these lines of people, and they’re willing to wait an hour-plus just to a buy a T-shirt, that should trigger something, like: ‘Oh! Maybe if we put a few more huts up, we would sell that much more.’ ”
A FIFA spokesman, asked why Women’s World Cup venues had so few Official Fan Shops, replied via email, “We have to respect the characteristics of each stadium and do our best to work with the existing setup.”
As for the limited range of souvenirs created for the event, the spokesman said: “The on-site product portfolio is based on experience for international events organized in Europe when it comes to merchandise. We also focused on offering commercially successful products.”
The merchandising of the women’s game is one small piece of soccer’s gender pay gap that the U.S. women’s team and its counterparts in other countries are pushing to narrow.
FIFA awarded $38 million in prize money to France for winning the 2018 men’s World Cup. It will award the victor of this Women’s World Cup $4 million, up from $2 million in 2015.
No question, FIFA’s revenue from the Women’s World Cup is a fraction of the revenue the men’s World Cup generates, particularly in broadcast rights and ticket revenue.
But there are plenty of signs at this tournament — record TV ratings for women’s soccer, capacity crowds at Parc des Princes, a robust secondary ticket market for the France-United States quarterfinal — that there is money to be made in the women’s game.
“How do you know what your revenue source is going to be if you don’t ever create a market or at least put stands up?” Foudy said. “Merchandising is a huge thing, because then everyone is wearing it and marketing it and selling the sport.”