FIFA ended a standoff with broadcasters in five major European television markets by agreeing to a Women’s World Cup rights deal Wednesday just five weeks before the first match. (More Football News)
The deal struck collectively with the European Broadcasting Union ended nine months of jibes aimed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino at free-to-air networks in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Infantino repeatedly aired his anger with the broadcasters — which all have national teams playing in the 64-game tournament — for offering as little as 1% of the fees they paid for the men’s World Cup.
The July 20-Aug. 20 World Cup is being hosted by Australia and New Zealand with many group-stage games scheduled through the night and early hours of the European morning.
No price was announced for adding the five countries plus Ukraine to the 28-nation rights deal FIFA already struck with the Geneva-based EBU last year.
Instead, FIFA did hail European broadcasters committing to screen more women’s soccer from next season.
“As part of this agreement,” Infantino said in a statement, “the EBU has committed to working towards broadcasting at least one hour of weekly content dedicated to women’s football on its own digital platform and broadcaster network.”
This would be a “substantial additional commitment … thus helping to further grow the sport,” FIFA said.
“We see women’s football as being central to our content strategy and one of the cornerstones of the new digital platform we hope to launch next year,” EBU director general Noel Curran said.
Tensions between FIFA and broadcasters like Britain’s BBC, Germany’s ZDF and Italy’s Rai rose last month when Infantino suggested the tournament could be blacked out in those countries.
That would have been hugely damaging to the fast-flourishing women’s game. FIFA also had the option of showing games on its own streaming platform.
The 2023 Women’s World Cup is the first under FIFA’s strategy of selling broadcast and sponsor rights separate to the men’s edition. FIFA had historically included the women’s tournament as an add-on to sweeping rights deals for the men’s World Cup.