In a dispute over money, the head of FIFA threatened to not show this year’s World Cup for Women in five European nations, including Britain, France, Germany and Italy.
Gianni Infantino described the current broadcasters’ offers for the rights as “disappointing”, and a “slap on the face” to all “great players” and “all females worldwide”.
The President said that it is the “moral and legally obligation” of the world’s governing body for football “not to undersell the tournament”, which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand and run from 20 July until 20 August.
If the offers continue to be unfair [towards the women and women’s soccer], we may be forced to stop broadcasting the FIFA World Cup for Women in the ‘Big Five’ European countries.
He said broadcasters offered FIFA between $800,000 and $10m for the rights. This compares to $100m, or 80m, up to $200m, for the men’s World Cup.
Mr Infantino has made similar comments at FIFA’s 72nd congress, last month. He has now repeated his criticism at the World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva.
In a later Instagram post, Mr Infantino wrote: “Today I repeated my call to broadcasters that they pay a fair amount for media rights for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023. We did our bit: FIFA increased the prize money from $132m to $152m. This is a treble of the amount paid out in 2019 and ten times higher than the amount in 2015 (before my appointment as FIFA president).
“However the offers made by broadcasters in Europe, particularly the ‘Big 5 countries’, are very disappointing. They’re simply unacceptable, especially when you consider that:
In order to encourage equal pay and conditions for women’s football we will direct 100% of all rights fees towards this.
“2) Public broadcasters, in particular, have a responsibility to promote and invest women’s sports.
“3) While the viewing figures for the FIFA Women’s World Cup is 50-60% that of the FIFA World Cup men (which are themselves the highest-rated event), the broadcasters’ offerings in the “Big Five” European countries are 20 to 100 times lower than the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The broadcasters’ offers in the ‘Big 5 European countries’ for the FIFA Women’s World Cup are 20 to 100(!) times lower than those of men’s FIFA World Cup.
“4) In concrete terms, while broadcasters spend $100-200m on the FIFA World Cup for men, they only offer $1m-$10m to the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
This is a slap on the face of the FIFA Women’s World Cup and all women in general. To be clear, we have a moral and legal duty to not undersell the FIFA Women’s World Cup. If the offers are not fair to women and women’s soccer, we will not be able to broadcast the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the “Big 5” European countries.
“I therefore call on all players, both men and women, fans, football officials and politicians to support our call for fair remuneration in women’s soccer. Women deserve it! “It’s that simple!”
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Should broadcasters pay for World Cup prizes?
FIFA is under pressure to increase prize money and invest in women’s soccer.
Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s president, argues that broadcasters and sponsors should be the ones to fund this.
They don’t pay up.
Infantino has threatened to pull the plug on key European markets, including Britain, seven weeks before the Women’s World Cup kicks off.
BBC and ITV have reportedly offered to pay PS9m for the rights to broadcast the Men’s World Cup – 20 times less than what they paid.
The England team, as European champions will play their matches in the morning from Australia and New Zealand. Gareth Southgate’s side, on the other hand played mainly in prime time in the evening from Qatar last season.
The fact that FIFA has its own streaming platform, heavily promoted, undermines Mr Infantino’s brinkmanship.
Last year, it was used to broadcast the entire World Cup men’s from Qatar in Brazil for free.
FIFA+ can be a good option if the free-to air broadcasters in Britain – a must for the Women’s World Cup as a “crown-jewels” event – do not provide the value desired.
FIFA has agreed to increase prize money from $30m to $110m for the Women’s World Cup in France 2019.
The fund is far less than the $440m that 32 male teams from Qatar shared.
FIFA has sufficient cash to pay more money to women’s footballers.
The company has cash reserves of about $4 billion.
England, France Germany, Italy, and Spain all qualified for the 32-team Women’s World Cup. FIFA also offers a standby option of online streaming via its FIFA+ platform.
The UK broadcasting rights for the competition were put out to tender in June 2022, with a deadline of 12th July last year.
The UK government announced in April 2022 that the Women’s World Cup as well as the UEFA Women’s Euros will be added to the Listed Events Regime. These are “crown jewels”, sporting events which must be broadcast free-to-air, limiting the number of bidders.
PA News Agency understands that positive discussions are ongoing with potential UK radio broadcasters but no deal has yet been reached.
The Women’s World Cup in 2023 will be the first to be held under FIFA’s revamped commercial structure announced in 2021. This new structure “unbundled” women’s soccer from men’s and allowed brands to form exclusive partnerships with its women’s programmes.