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European sports ministers issue statement on Women's World Cup TV rights

Government representatives from five European countries have pleaded with FIFA and broadcasters to sign rights deals for the summer showcase

According to the BBC, Sports ministers from five European countries - the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Italy - have released a joint statement calling on world football governing body FIFA and broadcasters in their respective countries to "quickly reach an agreement" on TV rights for the upcoming Women's World Cup.

The tournament is set to start in less than 50 days and as yet several of the world's biggest markets for women's football do not have a TV rights deal in place.

Those countries include the UK where, despite speculation that the BBC and ITV will soon secure the rights to the tournament, the showpiece event thus far has no home on television on live streaming.

The five sporting ministers from across Europe, which included the UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, signed a joint statement saying it was their responsibility to "fully mobilise all stakeholders" towards achieving a good outcome.

This news comes on the back of comments from FIFA president Gianni Infantino who just last month lambasted broadcasters in Europe for not offering enough money to buy broadcast rights to the competition.

The Swiss described existing bids for the rights as "disappointing" and a "slap in the face" of not only women's football players but "all women worldwide", comments which he later rowed back on somewhat following a fair bit of criticism.

The statement from those European government ministers "acknowledged with concern" that as things stand the Women's World Cup will not be available to watch legally across their five respective countries, but did also say that the group remained "confident" that everyone involved will eventually "find a common path".

The parties involved will need to get a move on if they are to find a swift resolution, as the tournament, which will take place in Australia and New Zealand, kicks off on 20 July.

Why the decline in offers from broadcasters?

Several causes for these lacklustre offers from European broadcasters have been posited and they all make rather a lot of sense.

One key issue is that broadcast rights bids to FIFA previously were often grouped to include the women's and men's editions of the World Cup together. Broadcasters must now bid for them separately and face the harsh reality that women's football on the whole is drastically less popular with TV viewers and thus cannot justify the same level of investment.

Another problem concerns the time difference. FIFA will point to the 1.12 billion people who watched the 2019 Women's World Cup final in France as an example of the giant appeal of the women's game. However, a similar outcome is very unlikely here.

During that tournament, almost half of all viewing hours came from Europe. With the competition taking place in France, European fans were able to comfortably enjoy matches and even more skeptical fans may have given women's football a chance in such circumstances.

However, with the 2023 Women's World Cup happening in Australia and New Zealand, the viewing times are set to be very problematic for most European fans, which will likely result in a subsequent drop-off in viewership, something which has been anticipated by broadcasters and priced into any rights bids.

Nonetheless, the lack of movement by either FIFA or broadcasters on this issue has led to a soft intervention from governmental forces in the form of this joint-statement.

To what extent it will be effective in rallying the troops to find a compromise and make a suitable rights deal happen remains to be seen.

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