Football’s major governing body FIFA has taken the extraordinary step of threatening a complete media blackout of the Women’s World Cup.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has sensationally claimed that TV broadcasters simply haven’t offered enough money to purchase the rights – and that the games from the summer showpiece may not be shown in the UK or four other European countries unless an improved bid is posted.
Spain, Italy, Germany and France could also be subject to the blackout, with Infantino describing the offers made by broadcasters as a ‘slap in the face’ for women’s football.
He also revealed his belief that FIFA have a ‘moral obligation’ not to ‘undersell’ the media rights – although a complete blackout would likely force millions of viewers to seek out illegal streams instead.
The Women’s World Cup will take place across July and August in Australia and New Zealand, and despite the timezone differences there are hopes that the tournament will still deliver huge TV viewing figures – the 2019 edition was watched by a mammoth 1.1 billion people around the globe.
However, fans in the five European countries named – which also happen to be a quintet of nations where football is immensely popular – may not be able to see a single minute of the action if Infantino has his way.
Put Up or Shut Up
According to FIFA, broadcasters in the UK have bid around ten times less for the rights to the 2023 World Cup as they did four years ago.
There’s no doubting the popularity of the women’s sport and football in particular, with 2022 delivering record viewing figures thanks largely to the success of the WSL.
But the fact that many of the games will be played between 01:00 to 12:00 GMT is clearly one of the factors why this World Cup is less appealing from a broadcast perspective than those that have gone before, although it has been confirmed that England’s three group games will be played in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide – meaning a kick-off of around 11:00 GMT for each.
However, Infantino is adamant that he won’t sell the rights for a figure he believes to be cheap – despite the damage that could do to the women’s game in countries that can’t see the players in action.
“Should the offers continue not to be fair, we will be forced not to broadcast the FIFA Women’s World Cup into the ‘big five’ European countries,” the Swiss governor said.
“I call, therefore, on all players, fans, football officials, presidents, prime ministers, politicians and journalists all over the world to join us and support this call for a fair remuneration of women’s football.”
In the UK, it’s thought that the BBC and ITV plan to share the rights to broadcast the games, in much the same way they did with the men’s World Cup in 2022. The BBC had exclusive rights to show the Women’s World Cup in 2019 and Euro 2022, which England won by defeating Germany in front of a UK TV audience of some 17.4 million.