FIFA policy a new challenge for Ellis during the two-year WCups

LONDON (AP) – Since the end of three decades of coaching by lifting another world championship with the American women, Jill Ellis …

LONDON (AP) – Since ending three decades as a coach by lifting another World Cup with the American women, Jill Ellis has taken the time to reflect and embark on a different path with new career challenges.

“I’m not saying I would never go back to the sidelines,” Ellis said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But I feel a greater purpose.”

Advice given by the leader of a college sports project – “be a voice, be visible, build a community” – led to Ellis taking on the role of president of a National Women’s Soccer League expansion team with the San Diego Wave debuting next year . It also saw Ellis accept a leadership role from FIFA to explore a transformation of women’s games.

Central to this project is the idea of ​​doubling the frequency of World Cups – playing the finals of every event every two years. It was a vision that first hovered during the 2019 tournament in France when Ellis won her second title, with a bit of immediate dissent.

But opposition has grown, driven by concerns in men’s football, with European officials complaining about limited consultation before FIFA’s head of global football development, Arsene Wenger, revealed potential new men’s calendars to accommodate the two-year World Cup.

“My hope is that people in women’s football are not influenced by the decisions made by men,” Ellis said after a meeting in London with FIFA’s technical advisory group, which she heads. “My hope is that we do not see the politics of it on the men’s side, we look at what is actually best for our game.”

UEFA, the governing body overseeing European football, has even threatened to boycott the World Cup if FIFA receives wider support to carry out the restructuring of the sport.

“Let’s just put politics aside right now, and let’s look at what’s actually affecting and changing lives,” Ellis said. “What will really develop our sport? And I think my job is not to look at it with one region, it is to look at it around the world.”

Concepts for two-year world championships for men and women have been intertwined despite differences.

Wenger expects to reduce the number of windows for international games annually from five to two. But Ellis is examining whether just one period set aside for international matches should leave five windows, highlighting the different needs of women’s games with far fewer domestic competitions with good resources.

“So many countries around the world do not have organized (women’s) leagues and infrastructure, so the point of contact is the national team,” said Ellis. “Still the biggest driving force for women’s football is … the international tournaments and the national teams.”

That’s why Ellis, in the wake of his first World Cup victory in 2015, convinced the American Football Association to create their own tournament, where the She Believes Cup started in 2016.

“One of the things I looked at is in the four-year footprint between the World Cups and we have a big event and that was the Olympics,” Ellis said. “And how was I supposed to get my players used to the idea of ​​competing and getting on a podium? So I actually went to my bosses and thought, ‘We have to create a tournament other than outside, just a friendly match where “I control playing time and minutes and points. So it prepares me for a world championship, but it also prepares our players for how to control the rhythm of a tournament.”

This is especially necessary when it is so easy to qualify for the World Cup for teams like the United States.

Opponents who have been steamrolled have been a hallmark of qualifying in Europe, with few competitive matches for the elite highlighted by England, who scored 32 unanswered goals in the first four matches en route to the 2023 tournament.

“It’s not just about a two-year World Cup,” Ellis said. “We are looking at creating a reworked path for qualifications so that you can not see the results that you have recently seen here in Europe. No benefit when it is 10-0 in any way. It does not develop our sport.”

While consulting around the world, Ellis also points out that Hong Kong is out of contention after playing two qualifying matches.

“Football in their country could shut down,” Ellis said. “How can we create more events, more opportunities for a country to continue to develop? Are they now going to a road to maybe another event, another tournament? “

But leading women’s leagues – including in England, Germany and Italy – say more World Cups would be detrimental to their growth by saturating sponsorship opportunities, and they claim the calendar may not fit into another tournament. However, England have created their own four-team tournament in February in preparation for hosting the European Championships in July.

“What’s going to be challenging is that people are getting very territorial around their own piece of the landscape,” Ellis said. “My job is to try to say, ‘Hey, there’s enough of the landscape for all of us, but let’s see how we can develop the game.’ If the game grows globally, I think everyone will win. “

However, Ellis must also overcome opposition from the International Olympic Committee, which is concerned about the strain on players’ welfare, additional men’s tournaments overshadowing women’s events and clashes with other sports trying to avoid being overshadowed by football.

“We are not in front and in the middle enough,” Ellis said. “We are not enough in television. So to sit there more, it’s not about cannibalizing each other. It’s about trying to create space for women’s sports, period.”

FIFA’s final is not certain with a vote on two-year World Cups no longer scheduled for December.

“Let’s just put politics aside right now, and let’s look at what’s actually affecting and changing lives,” Ellis said. “What will really develop our sport? And I think my job is not to look at it with one region, but to look at it around the world.”

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