FIFA awards World Cup broadcasting rights to Fox through 2026, controversy ensues

Stop if you’ve heard this before — FIFA wasn’t transparent.

Shocking statement, right? So it should come as little surprise to know that when FIFA announced on Thursday it had awarded the broadcasting rights for all events to FOX in the United States through the 2026 World Cup.

No one saw it coming, including many of the folks who did a yeoman’s job covering the 2014 World Cup in Brazil over at ESPN. Chief among that group in shock was presenter Bob Ley:

Also among that group is former U.S. Women’s national team stalwart Julie Foudy, who also comments on the game for ESPN.

ESPN has a right to be upset, especially given the history of FIFA going with open negotiations for the tournaments in the past. However, one has to wonder if this isn’t a tip of the cap to FOX ahead of an expected (and controversial) decision to move the 2022 Qatar World Cup to the winter.

After all, having to compete against college football and the NFL could really put a damper on ratings and the parties we saw explode across the United States last summer.

It also has to upset not only ESPN, but NBC because the other two broadcasters never got to bid for a tournament that could wind up being hosted by the United States. The chances of that happening are pretty high with both Europe and Asia blocked from bidding for hosting rights to that World Cup.

Hosting would also boost the chances for the broadcasters to rake in some good dough in advertising and sponsorship dollars.

So, it is understandable why ESPN and other broadcasters would be upset by losing rights to a potential cash cow coming up in the future. It also hurts because fans are being force-fed FOX coverage for the next 11 years without any proof of what they will actually do with the broadcasts.

Certainly fans are the biggest loser in all of this, at least until FOX proves it can present the game at a level it hasn’t in the past. Making hires like Alexi Lalas and Stu Holden appear to be steps in the right direction, but after one broadcast of the USMNT this season there clearly were issues needed to be worked out.

The good news is that FOX has a long enough run up to the next World Cup to repair that damaged reputation with serious coverage.

For soccer fans in the United States, competition for broadcasting rights has only been a positive and killing that competition could really hurt the visibility of the sport. Don’t believe me, take a look at the treatment the NHL has gotten by ESPN since they took the puck and went to NBCSN instead of the mothership.

Let’s just hope a decade away from the biggest name in sports television doesn’t see the sport buried just when it is at the height of it’s growth in popularity and TV viewership.

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a contributor to The Comeback as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10. He also is a member of the FWAA and has been covering college sports since 2011. Andy is an avid soccer fan and runs the Celtic FC site The Celtic Bhoys. If he's not writing about sports, you can find him enjoying them in front of the TV with a good beer!

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