UPDATE, 10 AM: FIFA members are heading back to the voting booths for a second round of balloting after the first round produced no two-thirds majority winner in the race for president. The battle pits four-time incumbent Sepp Blatter and Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein amid a corruption scandal brought to light that has led some influential world leaders and key members of soccer’s governing body to call for Blatter’s resignation after 17 years at the helm. The first round of votes, among 209 member nations, was 133- 73 with three invalid ballots. Stay tuned.
PREVIOUS, 7:16 AM: All eyes are on Zurich as FIFA’s 209 associations vote today on whether to retain beleaguered president Sepp Blatter or end his 17-year role by selecting Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein. Politicians weighed in on the crisis with Russian President Vladimir Putin blasting U.S. authorities for “illegally persecuting people” with its investigation into graft at the world soccer body, while UK Prime Minister David Cameron called on Blatter to resign. Russia was controversially awarded the 2018 World Cup. That decision, along with the award to Qatar of the 2022 event, is now under investigation by the FBI and Swiss authorities.
Sure to be looking on particularly keenly are the major sponsors and broadcasters who spend ten of millions of dollars — each — on being associated with the World Cup, held every four years.
The World Cup is big business. Even though football (or soccer) still lags behind the likes of the NFL and NBA in the U.S., America represents FIFA’s most valuable single territory. In October 2011, Murdoch’s Fox outbid Disney’s ESPN and Comcast’s NBC for the English-speaking rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups for a guaranteed $425 million. NBCUniversal’s Telemundo Spanish networks paid $600 million for the U.S.-based Spanish-language TV rights. In February this year, FIFA announced it had extended those deals to cover the 2026 tournament.
Somewhat controversially — a bit of a motif with FIFA as this week’s events have shown — the rights were extended to Fox and Telemundo without being opened to tender to third-party bids. That led to speculation the extension was to compensate Fox and Telemundo for the planned shifting of the 2022 World Cup. Traditionally the tournament takes place in the summer months of June and July — a quiet time for U.S. sports with no NBA or NFL as competition. FIFA announced, again controversially, it wanted to shift the 2022 event to the winter to accommodate the searing heat in host country Qatar. The decision to award the tiny gas-rich desert state the World Cup in 2022, along with Russia the tournament in 2018, is one of the areas now being investigated by Swiss authorities and the FBI in their anti-corruption crackdown that has seen several senior FIFA officials arrested and questioned.
The World Cup is on a combination of free-to-air and pay TV platforms across the world, depending on the territory. In the UK, for example, the tournament is part of the protected “crown jewels” along with Wimbledon and the FA Cup that must be shown on free to air. In the Arab world, the tournament is only viewable via Qatari-owned beIN Sports’ encrypted pay platform. In 2014, the French arm of beIN Sports March acquired the French rights to the tournament in a sub-licensing deal with TF1 that saw, for the first time, the tournament broadcast on a pay TV channel in the country.
Here below is a list of the major broadcasters who own the 2018 World Cup rights. Those execs will be anxiously awaiting the results of the presidential elections and more importantly the outcome of any investigation that could lead to Russia being stripped of its hosting rights.
Fox (English language)/Telemundo (Spanish language)
Middle East and North Africa