Everybody's Wrong ⋆ An Old International

Everybody’s Wrong

Who has the bigger ego and bigger balls? It seems that FIFA and some national football associations carry out their fighting on the back of the women’s game, potentially leading to the worst case scenario: a tv blackout for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Viewers and fans of female football in Germany may be left stranded this summer without having the chance to watch the World Cup on terrestrial television. This concerns the whole of the tournament, not just the German team. The reason is a dispute between FIFA and the German broadcasters, ARD and ZDF about … money. Now it is not surprising that FIFA and money are being mentioned in one single sentence since the global football association seems to have its sole focus on money.

Acknowledging the development the wrong way

For this tournament, FIFA have decided to market the broadcasting rights separately from the men’s equivalent. This indicates that FIFA are taking the women’s game seriously and of course, want to earn some money. It is laudable because since the last World Cup the status of the game has completely changed for the better. It, therefore, deserves to be marketed on its own merits.

There is a catch, however. FIFA have put a price tag on the tournament, which some of the European broadcasters found too high. The problem with the tournament is the location: it will be held in Australia and New Zealand, i.e. at very early hours in Central Europe. Previously, no one in Europe cared too much about air time for football in the morning when the World Cup 2002 was held in Japan and South Korea. And surely, the money paid then was still higher than the asking price in 2023 for the women’s games showpiece.

The figures don’t add up

The asking price is €10m. This is a substantial amount of money, for any ordinary citizen, yet considered too high for Germany’s TV stations. They have offered around €5m; their Italian counterparts only came up with €1m – Italy’s men’s team have not qualified for Qatar 2022 but Italian TV nonetheless paid €160m to show the World Cup. The British are more generous with their offer of around €8m. The argument brought forward by Germany is that the fee offered is in line with the market. This leads to the question, of whether the €214m paid to show the World Cup in Qatar were also in line with the market? The discrepancy is not only astonishing, but it is also huge. The German broadcasters were happy to spend 43 times more money on the Qatar show than they were willing to pay for the women’s game. Compared to the 214m, the 5m offered for this year’s World Cup look like a pittance; even doubling that figure would not change much. It resembles a tip at the restaurant but not an acknowledgement of the development of women’s football.

Vox Populi

Things get somewhat complicated when public opinion is taken into account. The German pollster Civey has surveyed Germans about the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The result is another slap in the face. To the question “Should German public broadcasters pay more to FIFA in order to show the World Cup?”, a significant portion, 69% answered with “No” or “rather no”, while 15% would have no problem with paying more for the tournament. Among the age group of 18-29, the reply was even more explicit: 79% were against more money for FIFA. This is an easy question to answer as it only needs two short words, “Yes” or “No”.

While this anti-FIFA stance is laudable, it may do more harm to the women’s game in the long run. Should the television screens stay black? This may be a temporary victory for those arguing that FIFA are greedy but it would be an absolute disaster for female football.

They don’t really care about us!

It puts FIFA in a strong position and arms it with an argument, neither the DFB nor the broadcasters want to hear: that these two institutions are not willing to acknowledge the development of women’s football accordingly; that they pay only lip service. To get out of this quandary, the DFB and TV stations need to come up with good arguments. Risk a blackout and subsequently unrest? Or succumb to FIFA, the greedy football governing body which cares little to human rights and more about its coffers?

The latter may be the case as FIFA stand accused to have begun the selling of the rights way too late according to Almuth Schulte. The German keeper argued that FIFA intend to play the time card and will get their will this way. This is not fair in her eyes. The president of DFB has labelled the debate a political issue since the worst case could be a total blackout in Germany and other countries in Europe.

This is an unhealthy situation and should be resolved with all parties saving face. Should FIFA get their will, Gianni Infantino will have won another victory over Germany within a year.

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© image credits: 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification map by Kiwifury via WikiCommons, under Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 4.0

The colour coding of the map is as follows: blue are the countries that have qualified for the World Cup, and yellow are those that haven’t. Black depicts the countries that have withdrawn their teams or are banned for one reason or another, while grey means these teams have not even entered the tournament at the qualification stage.

The headline of this text is taken from the Buffalo Springfield song of the name title and was published in 1966.

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