In February 2015, FIFA awarded Fox the rights to the 2026 World Cup without opening up the bidding, inciting confusion and frustration from other networks. Soon after, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke hinted that the organization gave Fox the deal so that Fox wouldn’t sue over the potential rescheduling of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while maintaining that the agreement was favorable for FIFA.
But an inquiry into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup released Tuesday revealed plain as day that FIFA was forced into a bad deal.
The TV partners in the USA and Canada did have some issues, as in the USA there would be a clash with the American Football season, for which reason it had been agreed to extend the contract with FOX in exchange for an undertaking not to act against FIFA should the 2022 World Cup be moved to winter.
As a result, Secretary General Valcke acknowledged, by rescheduling the World Cup “potentially we are losing money and we are making less money because we are not running an open process in the U.S. market, giving a chance to other channels to bid for and we just extend with FOX for the same amount of money.”
This whole saga began in December 2010 when Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup in a bidding process that has drawn widespread suspicion of corruption. Given the dangerously hot temperatures Qatar experiences during the summer months, the World Cup was eventually rescheduled for November and December, in an unprecedented move. That schedule shift greatly displeased Fox, which airs American football in the fall and winter and would have to sacrifice on one sport or the other if the two overlapped.
And so FIFA gave Fox (as well as Canadian rightsholder Bell Media and North American Spanish-language rightsholder Telemundo) an incredible deal, extending their agreement through 2026 at the same cost the network is paying for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. That rate is almost certainly much less than Fox would have had to pay in a bidding war, especially given that 1.) the 2026 the World Cup might be in North America and 2.) the tournament will expand from 32 to 48 teams, meaning more games and more viewers.
So Fox will suffer through the inconvenience of a winter World Cup in 2022 in exchange for a remarkably lucrative World Cup in 2026.
FIFA, meanwhile, will be burdened by a devastatingly bad deal, all thanks to a kooky bidding process years earlier.