Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, has warned that a TV blackout of this summer’s Women’s World Cup is on the cards in Europe unless broadcasters there improve on their “unacceptable” offers for the rights.
Speaking at a World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva, Infantino said the bids from the big five countries – Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and France – were so low compared with the men’s tournament that they amounted to a “slap in the face” of the players and “all women worldwide”.
However the good news for British fans is that Fifa sources are privately conceding that a UK television deal is not not a million miles away – and that Infantino’s fire is directed more at the other major European nations. It is understood that BBC and ITV have bid about £9m to share the tournament, which starts in Australia and New Zealand on 20 July.
Earlier Infantino had posted a lengthy attack on broadcasters on Instagram, in which he said that they had offered only $1m-$10m (£800,000-£8m) for the rights for the women’s World Cup, compared with $100m-$200m for the men’s tournament. Italy’s offer is said to be particularly low.
“To be very clear, it is our moral and legal obligation not to undersell the Fifa Women’s World Cup,” Infantino said. “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.”
Due to the time-zone difference, Women’s World Cup matches will be held outside prime-time viewing hours for European markets but Infantino said that was no excuse given that many games would kick off at 9am or 10am in Europe.
“The viewing figures of the Fifa Women’s World Cup are 50-60% of the men’s 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,” he wrote on Instagram. “This is a slap in the face of all the great Fifa Women’s World Cup players and indeed of all women worldwide.”
More than a billion viewers tuned into the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France across all platforms, according to Fifa figures. A BBC spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on sports rights negotiations.” ITV and Channel 4 have been approached for comment.
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