AUCKLAND, New Zealand—Broadcasters were criticized by FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Saturday for what he called unacceptably low offers for rights to screen the Women’s World Cup next year.
Offers of just 1% of the value of men’s World Cup rights deals have been rejected, Infantino said, for the tournament that starts in July in Australia and New Zealand.
The men’s World Cup has driven FIFA’s expected overall income toward $7 billion for the four-year commercial cycle that ends in December after that tournament in Qatar.
“100 times less, even more than 100 times in some occasions, then this is not acceptable,” the FIFA leader said at a news conference ahead of the finals tournament draw. “I don’t want to mention them, but those who are there, they know it.”
The time zones in Australia and New Zealand mean many games, especially in the group stage, will be played in the nighttime hours in lucrative markets in Europe and the Americas.
“We are not going to accept this,” Infantino said of the broadcast offers, “because we know that the viewing figures for these broadcasters in some big footballing countries for the men’s World Cup or for the Women’s World Cup are actually very similar … meaning their commercial income is very similar for men and for women.”
Infantino took a further jibe at broadcasters who he said pushed FIFA to treat women’s soccer more equally on issues such as World Cup prize money.
The 32 teams at the men’s World Cup in Qatar will share $440 million in prize money, while a prize fund of $60 million was proposed for the first 32-team women’s edition in 2023.
“In some countries, they are quite good at telling us … that we should give more emphasis on equal opportunities, on equality, on non-discrimination, on treating men and women in the same way which is, of course, what we have to do, and we try to do that to the best of our ability,” Infantino said.
“It’s important that everyone puts actions, as well, behind words and we all start to treat women’s football the same way.”
FIFA has changed the commercial model for the Women’s World Cup to earn its own income instead of simply being packaged as an add-on for broadcasters and sponsors doing deals for the men’s tournament.
Infantino suggested a further push for equality for women’s soccer, noting that Olympic tournaments have 16 men’s teams and only 12 for women.
“Women should have 16 teams as well at the Olympic Games,” he said. “These are some discussions we are going to have.”
Adding four women’s teams would need more than 70 athlete quota places when the International Olympic Committee is asking some governing bodies to make cuts to help find space for new sports and control organizers’ costs.
Image credits: AP