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FIFA ‘looking into’ ticketing issues as World Cup demand soars

(Harold Cunningham/FIFA via Getty Images)

FIFA’s handling of the fan experience for the 2023 World Cup came under fire this week, as fans struggled with a complicated ticketing rollout following the final draw on Oct. 22. In a statement to Australian news outlet ABC on Tuesday, FIFA said there has been an “unprecedented” demand for tickets.

As the tournament expands in size and scope, there is warranted concern that world football’s governing body isn’t taking the task at hand seriously enough.

“I would say that the ticketing — absolutely something that we’re looking into. There’s been a huge amount of requests, specifically after the draw,” Arijana Demirovic, FIFA Director of Women’s Football Development, told Just Women’s Sports in a small media roundtable on Friday.

A FIFA media officer also said that the organization is optimistic about the targeted sale of 1.5 million tickets for the tournament. The 2019 World Cup surpassed one million tickets sold four days in, selling out 14 of 52 matches. With an expanded field of 32 teams playing 62 matches in 2023, a projection of 1.5 million tickets sold sounds almost conservative despite whatever challenges a tournament in the expansive region of Australia and New Zealand might present for traveling fans.

With demand, however, comes complications. Tickets for a number of the Matildas’ high-profile group-stage games disappeared before fans could even sign up for a presale. A FIFA spokesperson stands by the work the organization has done behind the scenes to be ready for ticketing demand.

The general sales stage began on Nov. 1 and will run all the way to March 2023, but tiered ticketing is complicated, especially when sponsors are involved. Visa has been a FIFA partner since 2007, and their cardholders received access to pre-draw tickets as early as Oct 6. The rest of the population followed on Oct. 12.

After the Oct. 22 draw, which showed fans the participating nations’ paths through the tournament, Visa users again got early access. From Oct. 25-31, Visa cardholders could buy tickets before general sales began in November. Both the Visa pre-sale and the general sale ticket releases were done by time zone, meaning the middle of the night for some fans.

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FIFA's Director of Women's Football, Arijana Demirovic, addressed the media Friday. (Christopher Lee - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

“Some of the communications that have been going in certain time zones were maybe not correct for some of the fans, or some of the fans felt that they missed out because maybe it was in the middle of the night for specific matches that they were targeting,” Demirovic said. “There are still tickets available, and there will be different sales stages for the tickets. And I’m hopeful that many more fans will be able to get those tickets.”

Those fans will now have to wait until the “final sales phase,” which begins in April 2023.

“It is my understanding that there will be other opportunities to purchase tickets specifically for those matches that have been extremely popular among the domestic fans in Australia,” Demirovic said. “Because they’re having some big matches in their group stage, and there’s quite a hype around those matches.”

While the international demand for World Cup tickets grows with every iteration of the event, failure in domestic ticketing opportunities undermines FIFA’s stated desire to grow the game in Australia and New Zealand.

“One of the appealing reasons why Australia and New Zealand was selected was obviously because of that development based around [Oceania Football Confederation] and in Asia generally,“ a FIFA spokesperson said.

Demirovic specifically noted the fan interest for tournament debutantes like Morocco and Zambia, as well as promotional events like a trophy tour to drum up excitement for the event.

“I have to say that we will be able to see more and more information in the coming weeks, but already from the initial ticket sales, we’re seeing quite a lot of nationalities registering for tickets as well,” she said. “A big Australian and Kiwi contingent, so to say, but quite a lot of different nationalities.”

Ultimately, Demirovic sees the overwhelming demand as a positive: If some fans miss out, then the Women’s World Cup has cultivated a valuable ticket.

“The reality is there is a capacity at the stadium that we will reach at one point,” she said, “and hopefully those fans are then just glued on their screens and are finding different opportunities to also follow the game rather than to get discouraged, in case they cannot join some of the matches.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

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