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2023 Women’s World Cup: European countries urge resolution on broadcast rights

(Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The sports ministers in five European countries are pushing FIFA and broadcasters to “quickly reach an agreement” on television rights for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which begins on July 20.

In a joint statement, representatives of the five countries — the UK, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy — expressed concern that an agreement still has not been reached.

“We are convinced that the media coverage of the Women’s World Cup will be decisive in improving the global visibility of women’s sports in our European countries,” the statement read. “Media exposure to women’s sports has indeed a highly significant impact on the development of women’s and young girls’ sports practices.”

Last month, FIFA President Gianni Infantino threatened a TV blackout in those countries, telling the European broadcasters they needed to increase their offers in order to be granted rights to televise the tournament.

“Should the offers continue not to be fair, we will be forced not to broadcast the FIFA Women’s World Cup into the ‘Big 5’ European countries,” Infantino said at the time.

With less than 50 days until the tournament begins, the lack of broadcast rights deals raises concerns over the quality of coverage broadcasters in those countries will be able to provide — assuming they come to an agreement with FIFA in time. Such rights deals are typically worked out well in advance, allowing broadcasters plenty of time to plan their coverage. For comparison: the BBC’s rights deal for the 2018 and 2022 Men’s World Cups was signed in 2014.

While viewership for women’s soccer has soared, especially in recent years, broadcast rights fees have not kept up. In an interview with Bloomberg last year, FIFA Chief Business Officer Romy Gai said that for women’s matches, UK broadcasters pay roughly 2% of what they do for men’s — despite the women’s audience being about 20% of the men’s.

FIFA has pointed to the disparate rights fees as one of the reasons the men’s World Cup prize pool is so much larger than the women’s. FIFA allocated $440 million to teams that competed at last year’s Men’s World Cup, while the prize pool for this summer’s Women’s World Cup is $150 million.