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Fifa warns of 2023 Women’s World Cup broadcast blackout in Europe

Gianni Infantino says broadcasters in ‘big five’ European countries must improve rights offers.

2 May 2023 Ed Dixon

Getty Images

  • Fifa president Infantino says current proposals “slap in the face” of players
  • 53-year-old says broadcasters had only offered US$1m to US$10m

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has threatened a blackout of the 2023 Women’s World Cup in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain unless broadcasters improve on their “disappointing” rights offers.

Offers from the ‘big five’ European countries were not acceptable to soccer’s global governing body and were a “slap in the face” of the players and “all women worldwide”, said Infantino.

“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 Organisation (WTO) 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 five’ European countries.”

Infantino added that broadcasters had offered only US$1 million to US$10 million for the rights, compared with US$100 million to US$200million for rights to the men’s World Cup.

It is the latest call from Fifa for broadcasters to increase their offers for the media rights to this summer’s Women’s World Cup. Last October, Fifa’s chief business officer Romy Gai revealed the organisation had rejected proposals from networks and pushed for them to “pay what the women’s game deserves”.

The 2023 Women’s World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, kicks off on 20th July.

SportsPro says…

Infantino has a habit of putting his foot in it. On this occasion, though, his comments that the Women’s World Cup media rights are undervalued appear reflective of the female game’s surging growth, instead of a call to extract even more money out of one Fifa’s top assets.

The Swiss, however, should be wary of playing hardball. If a blackout really does happen, the next big opportunity to take women’s soccer to the masses will be missed. European broadcasters’ apparently underwhelming bids thus far are likely largely due to Women’s World Cup matches in Australia and New Zealand being held outside primetime viewing hours, though Infantino has dismissed this excuse.

Compromise is the most likely outcome here. Fifa may get more for the rights but they will still be well short of those for the men’s World Cup. Yet, if this summer’s tournament can far exceed the 1.12 billion that Fifa said tuned into the 2019 Women’s World Cup, soccer’s governing body will be in a much stronger negotiating position for the 2027 edition. Perhaps then, Infantino can secure the rights fees he is already craving.

Adding to the threat of a blackout is that the tournament could be broadcast widely on the Fifa+ streaming service. The direct-to-consumer (DTC) platform has already been used to broadcast the Qatar 2022 World Cup in Brazil, proving it can handle large audiences albeit in a single country. While that move would draw more fans to Fifa+, casual viewers would feel less inclined to sign up to a service that lacks smart TV distribution – potentially hampering Fifa’s audience reach goals for this summer’s showpiece.

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