Fifa, soccer’s world governing body, has launched an invitation to tender process for broadcast rights in the UK for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.
The ITT process covers television, IPTV, internet, mobile and radio rights.
The BBC, the public-service broadcaster, and ITV, the free-to-air commercial broadcaster, presently share the live World Cup rights in the UK, a market protected by strict 'listed events legislation,' which states that all matches from Fifa’s flagship tournament must be shown on free-to-air television. The world body has repeatedly failed to have this ruling overturned in its bid to derive greater rights fees from the UK market.
Following question and answer sessions that will run until April 25, UK broadcasters must make their submissions to Fifa by 5pm (CET) on April 28, whereupon negotiations with preferred bidders will open on April 29.
The 2018 World Cup will be staged in Russia and the 2022 tournament will be held in Qatar.
Niclas Ericson, director of Fifa’s TV division, said: ‘‘This tender is designed to help Fifa identify and select the media entity in the territory that is able to operationally secure the transmission commitments required by Fifa, as well as achieve Fifa’s overall objectives of reaching the widest possible audience and financial targets for our broader mission in football.’’
The BBC and ITV acquired rights to all matches at the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments in a deal struck with Fifa in 2005, an agreement reported to be worth around £110 million ($182.3 million) per tournament.
In July last year, Fifa and Uefa lost their European court battle against the inclusion of the World Cup and European Championships in their entirety in the UK’s listed events. The European Court of Justice said then that it “dismisses the appeals brought by Fifa and Uefa in their entirety.”
The two governing bodies were appealing against a 2011 ruling by the European General Court (formerly the Court of First Instance) that it is up to individual countries to decide which events should be protected from being shown exclusively on pay-television.
In 2012, Fifa’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup rights deal with the European Broadcasting Union, the umbrella body of mainly public-service broadcasters, excluded the UK market (along with France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia).
The UK market has been recently energised by the arrival of BT Sport, the pay-television channels of telecoms giant BT.
Speaking after BT’s £897-million deal for Champions League and Europa League rights from 2015-16 to 2017-18, Jerome Valcke, Fifa’s secretary general, said that he was open to talking to UK broadcaster that have the potential to acquire rights to the World Cup.
As part of its Champions League and Europa League agreement, BT Sport vowed to provide free-to-air coverage of the finals of both competitions and certain matches involving UK teams, even though those matches are not protected under the listed events legislation. Nevertheless, the news that BT would offer an unencrypted signal for certain matches raised the possibility that the broadcaster could bid for sports rights properties protected by the legislation.
Valcke told the Daily Telegraph newspaper in November: ‘‘We will have a tender process for the UK market and we will talk with the different broadcasters who have the potential to acquire from Fifa the rights. It will be open and whoever reaches the requirements and obligation based on these 64 games being listed in England, [is] welcome.’’
However, it remains to be seen whether BT could satisfy the legislation, given that the free-to-air television on which certain sporting events must be shown live in the UK is defined as a broadcaster whose channels are available without payment and that reaches at least 95 per cent of the UK population.
Media companies can request the ITT documents from Fifa by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), with the request needing to state the names and titles of those who will interact with Fifa in the procedure.