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FIFA rejects World Cup TV bids in favor of pay ‘women’s game deserves’

The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup trophy is displayed during a trophy tour in Sydney in August. (Matt King/Getty Images for FIFA)

FIFA is calling on broadcasters to increase their TV bids for the 2023 Women’s World Cup after rejecting a number of offers for being too low.

Romy Gai, FIFA’s chief partnerships and media officer, said the body has already turned down offers to broadcast the World Cup in Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom (and expects Spain to follow) on account of their value. He declined to name the TV providers.

“This is not a case of being priced out, but rather testament to a lack of willingness of broadcasters to pay what the women’s game deserves,” Gai told Bloomberg in an interview published Thursday.

Women’s soccer attendance and viewership records have surged since the 2019 World Cup, which drew a combined 1.12 billion viewers across all platforms. The UEFA Women’s Champions League final in May enjoyed a 56 percent increase in viewership over last year’s final, with 3.6 million fans tuning in to watch Lyon defeat Barcelona. England’s win over Germany in the final of the 2022 UEFA Women’s European Championship set the mark for the most-watched women’s soccer match ever in the UK at 17.4 million viewers.

“Audience figures show that the Women’s World Cup 2019 in France was a catalyst for change in terms of TV audience,” Gai said. “We know the opportunity for women’s football is there. Now, together, we need to capture it.”

The draw for the World Cup, taking place in Australia and New Zealand next summer, will be held this Friday at 7:30 p.m. local time in Auckland.

The United States women’s national team, winners of the 2019 World Cup, qualified for the 2023 tournament during the Concacaf W Championship in July.

For the first time, they will compete in a World Cup under their new collective bargaining agreement, which achieved equal pay between the men’s and women’s teams when it was ratified in May. That includes closing the gap between FIFA prize bonuses, which are substantially different for men’s and women’s tournaments and had been the biggest hold-up in negotiations with U.S. Soccer.

In the U.S., Fox and Telemundo own the broadcast rights to the 2023 Women’s World Cup.