FIFA President Threatens European Blackout of Women’s World Cup
Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, has taken a strong stance in regards to the broadcasting rights for this year‘s Women‘s World Cup. He has warned five major European countries that deals must be reached with broadcasters in order to show the tournament or else it will not be broadcasted in those countries.
Infantino has stated that the offers that have been made are not fair towards women‘s sport and that it is FIFA‘s “moral and legal obligation not to undersell the FIFA Women‘s World Cup“.
England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain are all participating in the tournament, and FIFA has a stand–by broadcasting option with its own online streaming platform FIFA+. Europe is FIFA‘s most lucrative broadcast market with $US1.06 billion ($2.4 billion) in TV revenue for the 2019–22 commercial cycle, mostly tied to the men‘s World Cup in Qatar. The Women‘s World Cup has standalone broadcast and sponsor deals rather than being bundled with the men‘s tournament.
This policy was started since Infantino was elected in 2016, when he pledged “continued and intensified effort“ to develop the women‘s game. Infantino has been vocal about the issue of broadcasters undervaluing women‘s soccer, first airing the Women‘s World Cup broadcasting issue seven months ago in Auckland for the official draw for the tournament. He said then that offers as low as 1 per cent of the equivalent TV rights price paid for the men‘s World Cup were “not acceptable“.
At the 2019 Women‘s World Cup hosted by France, FIFA claimed a total global audience of 1.12 billion for the 52–game tournament across all broadcast platforms. UEFA, the European soccer body, has taken a different approach to building an audience for its annual Women‘s Champions League competition — giving games away for free on YouTube. Many European countries are already assured of seeing most or all of the 64–game Women‘s World Cup on free–to–air channels.
The European Broadcasting Union announced a collective 28–nation deal with FIFA in October that covered Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Switzerland and Turkey. The value was not disclosed. Gianni Infantino‘s stance on the broadcasting rights for the Women‘s World Cup has been both firm and uncompromising. He has urged public broadcasters to promote and invest in women‘s sport and warned those who do not offer fair deals that the tournament will not be broadcasted in their countries.
This has the potential to be a landmark moment for women‘s sport, as broadcasters are finally being held to account for the value they place on women‘s sporting events.