Football World Cup blackout would damage huge momentum behind women's game – Laura Waddell

Imagine the furore that fans of the World Cup would make at the prospect of a blackout.

Imagine the England men’s team gearing up for another chance at victory while viewers at home were resigned to no streams and blank screens, the opportunity to celebrate as a nation extinguished. It’s difficult to imagine, isn’t it? Well, not if you’re trying to watch the Women’s World Cup.

Fans of women’s football are being let down yet again. In the news this week, Fifa president Gianni Infantino has been complaining about low offers for the broadcasting rights to the Women’s World Cup by channels in Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy and France. Infantino said this week in Geneva: “To be very clear, it is our moral and legal obligation not to undersell the Fifa Women’s World Cup. Therefore, should the offers continue not to be fair, we will be forced not to broadcast the Fifa Women’s World Cup into the ‘big five’ European countries.”

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This latest sign that the women’s game is being undervalued comes at an extremely frustrating time for the health of the sport. The last WWC, and the success of England’s Lionesses in more recent fixtures, brought in reams of new fans. Star players with international popularity have used their new-found renown to advocate for pay parity in the game, winning their campaigns in a number of countries in recent years. Failing to come to an agreement on televising the WWC risks squandering all of that fan and player momentum.

For football followers who just want to watch the women’s game, one calamity after another seems to get in the way, but ultimately we keep tripping over the same problem: lack of investment reveals a fundamental lack of belief in women’s football, that it is worth watching and that we want to watch it. But in fact, the viewer figures speak for themselves.

According to the Women’s Sport Trust, the average viewer of women’s sport spent double the time watching in 2022 than in 2021 – and that’s in the face of patchy accessibility. Tammy Parlour, the trust’s chief executive, said it was "testament to our belief that if you make women's sport visible, then viewership will follow”. This is the very growth that is at risk of being cut short by limited investment.



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