FIFA warns Europe of Women’s World Cup broadcast blackout

FIFA warns Europe of Women’s World Cup broadcast blackout
FIFA President Gianni Infantino holds an official ball of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup during the ‘Making trade score for women!’ discussion on the use of football as a tool for trade and development at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, on Monday. (AFP)
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Updated 02 May 2023
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FIFA warns Europe of Women’s World Cup broadcast blackout

FIFA warns Europe of Women’s World Cup broadcast blackout
  • Infantino has been clearly rankled that player-led criticism of FIFA not offering equal prize money is amplified by media he believes is undervaluing women’s soccer

GENEVA: Publicly criticizing broadcasters for offering too little to screen the Women’s World Cup has not worked out yet for FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who is now threatening a blackout in some major European markets.

Infantino intensified a public standoff that started last October with a warning late Monday to five key countries — England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain — in a statement published less than three months before the tournament starts in Australia and New Zealand.

“To be very clear, it is our moral and legal obligation not to undersell the FIFA Women’s World Cup,” Infantino said of the July 20-Aug. 20 tournament.

“Therefore, should the offers continue not to be fair (toward women and women’s football), we will be forced not to broadcast the FIFA Women’s World Cup into the ‘Big 5’ European countries,” he said.

Infantino first aired the issue seven months ago, when in Auckland for the official draw for the 32-team tournament, saying that offers as low as 1 percent of the TV rights price paid for the men’s World Cup were “not acceptable.”

In March, for world soccer’s annual meeting held in Rwanda, Infantino reported no progress with TV broadcasters while also announcing a more than threefold increase in team prize money to $110 million for the tournament.

Infantino has been clearly rankled that player-led criticism of FIFA not offering equal prize money is amplified by media he believes is undervaluing women’s soccer. The Women’s World Cup now has standalone broadcast and sponsor deals rather than being bundled with the men’s tournament.

The FIFA leader suggested Monday “public broadcasters in particular have a duty to promote and invest in women’s sport.”

“Women deserve it! As simple as that!” he said.

This women’s World Cup is far from an ideal time zone for European broadcasters. Daytime games in Australia and New Zealand play in the early hours of the morning in Europe, though Infantino said that is not an excuse.

Acknowledging it was not primetime in Europe, Infantino noted the European times of 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. “is quite a reasonable time” for viewers.

“It doesn’t make any economic sense because the viewing figures are there,” he said.

One option for soccer’s governing body if broadcast deals cannot be reached in Europe is to stream games exclusively on it’s online platform.