FIFA threatens Europe with Women’s World Cup broadcast blackout

Gianni Infantino says rights offers from ‘Big 5’ European countries are unacceptable and a ‘slap in the face’.

President Gianni Infantino delivers a speech at the FIFA congress
The World Cup is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20 [File: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo]

Europe’s top football nations face a broadcast blackout for this year’s Women’s World Cup unless media can improve on their “disappointing” offers for the rights, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said.

Offers from the “Big 5” European countries – England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France – were not acceptable to football’s world governing body and a “slap in the face” of the players and “all women worldwide”, Infantino said late on Monday.

“To be very clear, it is our moral and legal obligation not to undersell the FIFA Women’s World Cup,” Infantino said at a World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva.

“Therefore, should the offers continue not to be fair, we will be forced not to broadcast the FIFA Women’s World Cup into the ‘Big 5’ European countries.”

The World Cup is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20.

Infantino said broadcasters had offered only $1m-$10m for the rights, compared with $100m-$200m for rights to the men’s World Cup.

Infantino first expressed his concern over the issue seven months ago in Auckland during the official draw for the 32-team tournament, saying that offers for the Women’s World Cup were “not acceptable”.

In March, at the world football’s annual meeting held in Rwanda, Infantino reported no progress with TV broadcasters while announcing a more than threefold increase in team prize money to $110m for the tournament after FIFA was criticised by players for not offering equal pay.

FIFA allocated $440m in prize money for the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar.

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 on 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.

Due to the time-zone difference, Women’s World Cup 2023 matches will be held outside prime-time viewing hours for European markets but Infantino said that was no excuse.

“Maybe … it’s not played on prime-time in Europe, but still, it is played at 9am or 10am, so it is quite a reasonable time,” he said.

Some 1.12 billion viewers tuned into the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France across all platforms, according to a FIFA audit of the tournament.

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

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies