Russian football fans at risk of missing World Cup?
One of the greatest sporting competitions in the world, the FIFA World Cup will host their 2018 competition in Russia—but just 14 months before the games kick off, the country has yet to agree a deal with major TV networks to secure the World Cup broadcasting rights. According to The Independent, state-run TV channels have steadfastly refused to meet FIFA’s exorbitant $120m price-tag to secure the rights, a price set at more than three times the amount to air previous World Cup tournaments.
Russia has thus far invested a massive 639 billion rubles ($11bn) in preparation as hosts of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, an eye-watering figure that becomes all the more excessive if you consider that the Russian people may not even have the opportunity to enjoy the games their hard-earned taxpayer money has helped to fund. Broadcasters and FIFA cannot even agree on a realistic price to broadcast The Confederations Cup, the prelude to the World Cup, that’s due to begin in just 3 months’ time.
Described as a “standoff” by Bloomberg, head of sports marketing agency Telesport in Moscow Petr Makarenko believes that FIFA are being unreasonable in their demands: “If FIFA is waiting for someone from the Government to come out with a bag of money and pay them, it might be a while before there’s a deal. It’s not unusual for prices to go up for each tournament, but now by 200%”.
It’s not just Russian residents who should be worried. The lack of broadcasting deal should give FIFA a cause for concern too, especially as the agreement with Brazilian broadcaster Globo was signed 8 years before the country hosted their 2014 event, and the fact that an agreement has already been secured for the rights to air the 2020 games. This should be the wake-up call FIFA needs that their expectant price cannot (or rather, will not) be met by Russian broadcasters, who should be keen to strike a mutually-beneficial deal rather than elongating a process which Makarenko says “with each day the channels are losing potential advertising revenue”.
And after all, both sides should be sufficiently incentivised to strike up a deal. FIFA wants to “show off a lively and enthusiastic host population in its global broadcasts”, or so says Bloomberg, whilst Russia wants to portray to the world a united country able to host world-class events laden with national pride. This is one of the first big challenges undertaken by FIFA’s new president Gianni Infantino, who has projected that Russia’s World Cup could potentially earn in excess of $5.5bn ($700m more than its predecessor, Brazil).
All eyes are fixed to see FIFA’s next move, but we’re going to have to stay tuned on whether Russian’s 143m population will be given the chance to see their country host the 2018 FIFA World Cup on TV…