The UK and other major European governments have called on FIFA and independent broadcasters to “quickly reach an agreement” for how the Women’s World Cup will be televised in July and August.
The joint statement comes weeks after Gianni Infantino, the head of FIFA, threatened not to show this year’s tournament in five European countries – the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – in a row over money.
Mr Infantino claimed broadcasters had offered FIFA between $1m (£800,000) and $10m (£8m) for the rights, compared with $100m (£80m) to $200m (£160m) for the men’s World Cup.
The governments from the five countries embroiled in the row have now said in a statement: “We, as sports ministers of European countries whose women’s national football teams have qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand, from the 20th of July to the 20th of August 2023, have acknowledged with concern that until now, no television rights have been attributed for the matches broadcasting in our countries.”
“We are convinced that the media coverage of the Women’s World Cup will be decisive in improving the global visibility of women’s sports in our European countries. Media exposure to women’s sports has indeed a highly significant impact on the development of women’s and young girls’ sports practices,” the statement adds.
The governments have also said they feel it is their responsibility to “fully mobilise all stakeholders, for them to quickly reach an agreement”.
Earlier this month, Mr Infantino said the current offers from broadcasters for the rights were “disappointing” and described them as a “slap in the face” of all great players and “all women worldwide”.
The president said it was the “moral and legal obligation” of football’s world governing body “not to undersell” the tournament.
Speaking at the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Mr Infantino added that if offers “continue not to be fair [towards women and women’s football], we will be forced not to broadcast the FIFA Women’s World Cup into the ‘Big 5’ European countries”.
The FIFA boss also said his organisation “did our part” by raising the prize money for the compeitiion to $152m (£123m) – treble the amount paid in 2019 and 10 times more than in 2015.
England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain have all qualified for the first Women’s World Cup to have 32 teams, and FIFA has a standby broadcasting option with its own online streaming platform FIFA+.
The tender process for UK broadcasting rights to the competition opened in June 2022 with a bid deadline of 12 July last year.
It followed the UK government’s April 2022 announcement that both the Women’s World Cup and UEFA Women’s Euros would be added to the Listed Events Regime, “crown jewels” sporting events that must be offered to free-to-air broadcasters, limiting potential bidders.