Women’s World Cup Starts Tomorrow

The Women’s World Cup begins tomorrow at 3:00 AM EDT when New Zealand as a co-host for the tournament takes on Norway and then at 6:00AM EDT the other co-host team from Australia plays Ireland.  The field consists of 32 national teams and the finals will happen on August 20 in Australia.  There will be plenty of focus on the US team here because the US women have won the last two Women’s World Cups and that has elevated that team and some of its players to a celebrity status here that is not matched by the US Men’s team.

Such is not necessarily the case in other parts of the world.  And the fact that men’s soccer is valued more highly in other parts of the world – – particularly in Europe – – can be shows by this information I found in a report at FrontOfficeSports.com:

“FIFA reportedly fell roughly $100 million short of its goal for Women’s World Cup broadcast rights fees ahead of the tournament’s kickoff in New Zealand on July 20.

“The organization aimed to sign deals to value the WWC’s global broadcasting rights at $300 million, but it will instead settle for closer to $200 million, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. FIFA is on track to bring in about $50 million in new broadcast rights sales since last year’s men’s World Cup—about a third of the $150 million new fees it hoped to secure.”

At one point in the negotiations the European broadcasters put forth such a lowball offer that FIFA president, Gianni Infantino threatened to black out European countries entirely.  That broke the logjam, but still the revenue that FIFA anticipated from this tournament will fall short of the goal.  This all needs to be put in perspective, however.

This is the first time that FIFA has sold media coverage rights for the women’s tournament.  In the past, any broadcaster who bought rights for the men’s tournament was given the rights to the women’s tournament as a “freebie”.  [Aside:  Sort of like those infomercials at two in the morning … “But wait!  There’s more…]  So, if you look at the revenues from this year’s women’s tournament, it is a huge revenue increase for FIFA.  But in terms of the size of this revenue stream, consider these data:

FIFA reached agreements with the five biggest TV markets in Europe bringing in $65M – – but that is less than half of what FIFA had projected as the price for those media rights in Europe.

I think that FIFA should also consider that media rights for programming that will take place in the early morning hours in Europe and/or the US will be less desirable for broadcasters.  I will make time to watch some of the games in the tournament, but I will not be setting my alarm for 2:45AM tomorrow so I can see the initial kickoff in the tournament; that is less than merely inconvenient.

Moving on …  In other soccer-related news, Lionel Messi is now officially a member of Inter Miami in US Major League Soccer.  This carries on a longstanding tradition of GREAT players coming to the US as their playing careers were coming to an end.  It began with Pele in 1970s when he left Brazil to come to play for the NY Cosmos in the now defunct North American Soccer League.  Other notables are:

  • Franz Beckenbauer
  • David Beckham – – now an owner of Inter Miami
  • Johan Cruyff
  • Thierry Henry
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic
  • Wayne Rooney

If the signing of Pele is a guide, MLS teams will sell out their stadia when Messi and Miami come to town; there won’t be any “walk-up tickets” available for those games.  Once the game kicks off, I think some fans are going to be surprised by Messi’s play with a not-very-good MLS team.  Messi is as much a facilitator on the pitch as he is a scorer – – and he is a prolific scorer.  But for him to facilitate others, they need to play a game that can be orchestrated and not a helter-skelter game.

Switching gears …  I read an announcement that Golden Gate Fields – the last remaining horse racing facility in Northern California will shut down after this racing season.  Bay Meadows and Golden Gates Field were the two major facilities in that part of the country and now both will be shuttered at the end of 2023.  As I have noted before in these rants, the horse racing industry is on a slow and tortuous death march.  Fifty years ago, every major newspaper in every big city in the US carried racing news.  They published the results of yesterday’s races somewhere nearby and had a list of entries for today’s races too.  Many papers had writers who used horse racing as their beat and that job was highly desirable among the sports staffs of the day.  Not nearly so anymore…

Horse racing is an “important story” for a couple of days leading up to the Kentucky Derby and then for a couple of days leading up to the Preakness – – because if the Derby winner can win again, that sets up a Triple Crown possibility.  Only if there is a Triple Crown possibility is there any buzz around the Belmont Stakes.  The Breeders’ Cup races were once a big thing but even those races have receded from view over the past decade or so.

Horse racing is probably going to go away.  Most sports fans will hardly notice its absence.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

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