World Cup 2010: The people’s game?

Just when I thought that the commercialisation of football and the disregard for its fans couldn’t get any worse, the unimaginable happened: Football’s “main event”, the World Cup that FIFA has branded the “people’s game”, is no longer available to all. In Denmark where I live, 21 of the games played at the 2010 the World Cup can only be seen on an obscure commercial channel called Canal 9 that was launched as recently as 2009 . This channel initially had TV-ratings so low that they couldn’t be measured, and only a fourth of the population can see it today. Football fans elsewhere find themselves in the same pickle as in Denmark: Brazilians will have to have access to five channels to be able to see all matches, including three commercial channels;   and Argentinians, Chileans, the Chinese, Colombians, the Japanese, Norwegians, the Portuguese, the Spanish and the Americans will all need to have access to at least one commercial channel to be able to see all the games of  the 2010 World Cup.

In other countries, such as Britain, however, the rights to the World Cup are protected. The 1996 Broadcasting Act in Britain means that only providers with free-to-air services and national or near national coverage can apply. And although a few of the matches will be shown on channels that are not available to all, including BBC3, the interactive streams of BBC1, and ITV2, 3 and 4, this is due to scheduling clashes. Shouldn’t this be the case everywhere?

I had naively hoped that although the Champions League, Premier League, the Danish Superliga and other club tournaments have long since been handed over to the highest bidder (in the case of the Danish Superliga, to four different channels, three of them commercial), the World Cup was meant to be an event of such magnitude and general interest, that it was only to be shown on non-commercial television channels to enable everyone with a TV-set to be able to watch the tournament in its entirety. I know that this principle was broken in 2006, but only a few of the least interesting games were shown on commercial channels four years ago – at least this was the case in Denmark. This time many of the really interesting matches, such as Argentina-Nigeria, two of Brazil’s matches in the group stage, and most importantly for me, England-Slovenia, are all shown on Canal 9. And if England finish top of their group, their second round tie, as well as a potential quarter-final and semi-final, will also be shown exclusively on Canal 9.  Worse is to come, however, as the Swedish television company TV4, which owns Canal 9, has bought the exclusive rights for Euro 2012 in Denmark.

There is of course a reason for all this. TV rights from the World Cup constitute FIFA’s biggest single source of income and are expected to generate €1.6bn in revenues – a significant increase from the just over €1bn in 2006 and €789m in 2002.

And the commercialization of the 2010 World Cup, and the disregard for both fans worldwide and the South Africans that are hosting the tournament, doesn’t stop here. To mention just one example of this, FIFA is intent on suing anyone trying to sell or promote anything remotely related to the 2010 World Cup, even denying South African street vendors the right to sell drinks outside the stadiums that are not manufactured by World Cup sponsors. In fact, 2500 legal actions have already been taken worldwide by FIFA.  So much for the World Cup being the people’s game, having an “African flavour”, or being beneficial to the poorest South Africans to whom it would really matter.

Author of “Player and Referee Conflicting Interests and the 2010 FIFA World Cup”, Andrew Jennings,  is spot on when stating that “the unaccountable structure [FIFA has] installed is honed to deliver the game to the needs of global capitalism – with no checks or restraints. Just cheques”.


Antenneforeninger nægter at lukke for VM-kampe, Politiken, 14 June 2010

Canal 9 vil slukke for VM-kampe til Danmark, Politiken, 14 Juni 2010

World Cup 2010: Hallow showpiece or hollow show-off?, Stiff Kitten’s Blog, 16 May 2010

Privat overvågningsgruppe: VM i fodbold krænker fattiges menneskerettigheder i Sydafrika,, 22 May 2010

5 Responses to World Cup 2010: The people’s game?

  1. Kim Fritz says:

    Så nu ikke alt det brok – det er jo kun fodbld og du kan se alle kampene 🙂

  2. Matt Yorke says:

    if u want to see the world cup that much u wud pay for it.. its the way things go for your coutnry so i am guessing its the way its been for a while, you could always get highlights off and get the latest news, because i really cant see the networls willingly hand over rights of broadcasting the world cup to non-comerial broadcasters..

    i know it’s easy for me to say, as i live in the UK i can watchin it on the non-comercial broadcasters that you mentioned in your article, but it seems like the article was pointless, as it is not going to accomplish getting the world cup boradcasted for free.

    • Hi Matt,
      The point of the article wasn’t to accomplish anything as such – other than letting of steam and perhaps informing people in other countries about the situation here and of FIFA’s commercial practice. I certainly do not expect to single-handidly getting the World Cup broadcasted for free, believe me. What they will end with eventually, however, is a revolt that will either make people shun an increasingly commercialised World Cup, or make them watch it/stream it on the internet for free in stead.

      • Matt Yorke says:

        thank you for the reply, i do see where u are coming from then, but to be honest i think as the whole magnitude of the world cup has got so big nowdays that people will watch it regardless.
        i dont want you thinking that im for commercial networks to be able to broadcast it becasue i do think as its not just regular national football that outside countries can view but a competition that invloves so many areas of the world, it shoudl be available to view on non-commercial networks everywhere but i think FIFA and the broadcasters know that this competition has got so big that they can charge what they like and people will pay…

        its just like you wrote in your article, which honeslty sickens me (them not you) that they bring the world cup to a country with aims of helping the shift out iof poverty and to do some good for the South African economy, then turn round and halt the poorest, most in need people from benefiting at all from this, just to add more digits to the bank balance.. They get away with this because its the system that we use that allows the rich to get richer and poor to stay poor but its the system that we all know, expect and dont do anythin about apart from contribute to handing our money over.

    • Hi Matt,
      You are probably right about that “people will watch it [the World Cup] regardless” – if not on commercial channels then by streaming it. And you also right in saying, that “its the system that we all know, expect and dont do anythin about apart from contribute to handing our money over”. But at least we can try and convince ourselves and others that something should be done about it. One day we may even figure out what that “something” is… (try reading and – I try and give a few answers in these two articles).

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