European viewers will be able to watch every match of the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand live on terrestrial television this summer after threats of a tournament blackout were averted.
With the tournament five weeks away, broadcasters finally reached a compromise deal with Fifa on Wednesday when the European Broadcasting Union agreed to extend an existing media rights partnership with world football’s governing body. No details of the price ultimately negotiated were released.
The UK’s joint rights deal between BBC and ITV – which includes live commentary on BBC 5 Live – means games broadcast in Britain will be divided between them until the final, which will be transmitted on both channels.
Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, had threatened to veto television coverage after what he believed to be exceptionally low bids in comparison to men’s tournaments.
During previous women’s World Cups, broadcasters gained rights through “bundled packages” acquired when buying access to the men’s World Cup but for the first time Fifa invited bids for this year’s tournament as a separate entity.
Given most kick-off times will involve Europeans watching in less than primetime early morning slots, some leading countries made what Infantino and others perceived to be derisory bids for the rights, in Italy’s case understood to be less than £1m.
While Infantino lamented “a slap in the face” for the players and “all women worldwide” the broadcasters stood firm, with BBC and ITV asserting that their joint £9m offer – 8% of the cost of broadcasting the last men’s World Cup in Qatar – was eminently reasonable.
The BBC’s director of sport, Barbara Slater, said: “We have shown every Women’s World Cup on the BBC since 1999 and we are happy to extend our partnership with Fifa for the upcoming tournament.”
The tournament begins on 20 July when New Zealand face Norway in Auckland and Australia meet the Republic of Ireland in Sydney in the opening fixtures. England face Haiti in Brisbane in their first Group D game two days later.
Infantino said: “Fifa is delighted to widen the deal with the European Broadcasting Union for the transmission of the upcoming Women’s World Cup to include the five major markets, namely France, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom as well as Ukraine, thus ensuring maximum exposure for the tournament.”