FIFA could impose European broadcast blackout of Women’s World Cup

Five major European nations face a potential broadcast blackout of the FIFA Women’s World Cup if media owners don’t significantly improve their offers for broadcast rights.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has repeated his call to broadcasters to follow FIFA’s lead and pay a fair price for media rights to the tournament to be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, emphasising that the revenue will be entirely re-invested in women’s football.

Infantino was speaking alongside the World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during Making Trade Score for Women!, a series of panel discussions held at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Main photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino: ‘Women deserve it. Simple as that.’

He said FIFA had already set an example by increasing the prize money to be shared by the 32 teams at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 to US$152 million, treble the amount paid in 2019 and ten times more than in 2015.

More than 1.12 billion viewers watched matches broadcast at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Photo credit: Norbert Braun, unsplash.

However, he said that FIFA still had to sell media rights for the tournament to some major markets because the offers were undervalued.

“The offers from broadcasters, mainly in the ‘Big 5’ European countries, are still very disappointing and simply not acceptable based on four criteria,” he said.

“Firstly, 100% of any rights fees paid would go straight into women’s football, in our move to promote actions towards equal conditions and pay.

“Secondly, public broadcasters in particular, have a duty to promote and invest in women’s sport.

“Thirdly, the viewing figures of the FIFA Women’s World Cup are 50-60% of the men’s FIFA World Cup (which in turn are the highest of any event), yet the broadcasters’ offers in the ‘Big 5’ European countries for the FIFA Women’s World Cup are 20 to 100 times lower than for the men’s FIFA World Cup.

“Finally, and concretely, whereas broadcasters pay US$100-200 million for the men’s FIFA World Cup, they offer only US$1-10 million for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. This is a slap in the face of all the great FIFA Women’s World Cup players and, indeed of all women worldwide.

“To be very clear, it is our moral and legal obligation not to undersell the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

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

“I call, therefore, on all players (women and men), 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.

“Women deserve it! As simple as that!”

The FIFA President’s call was supported by the WTO Director-General. “I hope the broadcasters are listening to what the FIFA President is saying about bidding higher for the Women’s World Cup as this is a real opportunity to support women’s football, and I hope they’ll take you up on your offer,” said Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

The FIFA President also added that time difference to Europe should not be an excuse for the low offers. “It doesn’t make any economic sense because the viewing figures are there. Maybe, because it is in Australia and New Zealand, 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.”

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