Australia and New Zealand will serve as co-hosts for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, FIFA announced Thursday, sending one of its two biggest tournaments — and its first 32-team women’s championship — to nations that have embraced the women’s game. FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, announced its decision after its governing council held a vote by videoconference. It also announced that the council had approved $1 billion in investment in women’s soccer over the next four years, funding that could prove vital in developing enough competitive national teams to fill the 32-team field. “We’ve been given a treasure,” said Johanna Wood, a member of the FIFA Council from New Zealand, who recused herself from the vote. “We will look after the treasure and work toward making women’s football more front and center on the world stage.” The council’s vote was 22-13. A bloc of European and South American members voted for Colombia. The United States member, former US Soccer president Sunil Gulati, voted for the Australia-New Zealand bid. The winning plan proposed using 13 stadiums in 12 cities — seven in Australia and five in New Zealand. Two of the stadiums would be in Sydney, including the 70,000-seat facility built for the 2000 Summer Olympics. The pandemic delayed a vote originally scheduled for May until Thursday. That means the winners will have just over three years to prepare. FIFA president Gianni Infantino suggested the decision on future hosts would be taken out of the hands of the council and decided by FIFA’s member associations at its annual congress, a change that has already occurred for the choice of the host of the men’s World Cup. “There’s no reason to treat men and women differently,” Infantino said . . . The Italian Football Federation aims to make the women’s game professional in the country by 2022, describing the move as “undelayable.” Female players are still considered amateurs by Italian law and therefore are not permitted to earn more than 30,000 euros ($33,000) per year before taxes. Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora has previously said he supports changing the 1981 law and making the women’s league professional . . . The Czech soccer league fined a club 160,000 Czech crowns ($6,700) after its fans racially abused an opposing player during a cup game, the second such case in a week. The incident occurred June 17 during the game between Sparta Prague and Plzen when a number of fans directed racist insults at Plzen midfielder Joel Kayamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sparta won the game 2-1 to advance to the cup final.
ACC commissioner John Swofford, 71, to retire
Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford, 71, is retiring after the 2020-21 academic year, ending his tenure after 24 years. The ACC announced Swofford will continue as commissioner until his successor is in place and assist with the transition. Swofford said in a statement he and his wife, Nora, had been planning for “some time” for this be his final year. Swofford has been commissioner of the ACC since 1997, the longest run in that position in the history of the 67-year-old conference. The former North Carolina athletic director took over a nine-team, basketball-centric league. In the years that followed, Swofford directed the conference through multiple waves of expansion. The ACC grew to 12 teams with the addition of Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech and added a football championship game by 2005 and ultimately reached 15 schools in 10 states by 2013, with the addition of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame.
Panthers’ Rhule considers kneeling
Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule said he’s considering kneeling alongside his players during the national anthem this season in support of the movement against racial injustice. “I would consider anything as we move forward,” Rhule said. “I’m supportive of the cause. I’m supportive of the movement. I’m supportive of social justice. I think for every person, coach or player, that will be a very personal decision. I think it has to be made at the right time and the right reason for everybody.” The first-year coach hired from Baylor previously has told his players that he will support them for expressing their views about social injustice. Texans coach Bill O’Brien previously has said he will take a knee alongside his players during the national anthem . . . Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard was the recipient of the Jack Horrigan Award from the Professional Football Writers of America for his cooperation with the media. Ballard, the 48th Horrigan Award winner, is the first member of the Colts to receive the honor. But he was the PFWA’s 2018 NFL Executive of the Year.
Carter officially retires from NBA
Vince Carter made his retirement official on Thursday, announcing on his podcast that his 22-year NBA career has come to an end. The announcement was largely a formality because the 43-year-old Carter had said many times over the course of this season that this would be his last in the NBA. His 22 seasons are the most in league history, and he became the first NBA player to appear in four different decades. Carter appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list. He started his career with Toronto, then played for New Jersey, Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento and spent his final two seasons with Atlanta. Carter’s first season was the 1998-99 campaign, which was shortened to 50 games because of labor strife. His final season was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Hawks will not be part of the 22 teams headed to the Disney complex near Orlando, Fla., next month for the planned resumption of NBA play . . . Venus Williams will play World TeamTennis for the 15th time, the league announced, as a member of the Washington Kastles, one of nine teams that will gather at The Greenbrier, a resort in West Virginia for a three-week season starting July 12 . . . Mike Fulp, the owner of a 311 Speedway in Stokes County, N.C., advertised “Bubba Rope” for sale in a social media marketplace days after NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, who is Black, announced a noose had been found in his garage at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Fulp’s Facebook followers criticized his ad, with some self-described loyal spectators saying they would stop attending events at the dirt track because of the post. More critical comments appeared on the speedway’s Facebook page Thursday. The ad had been taken down by midday Thursday.