New Zealand’s national women’s football team have begun their final preparations for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup, set to be held on home soil in July and August. Meanwhile, FIFA president Gianni Infantino threatens a media blackout if European countries do not improve their offer for TV rights to show the tournament.
Fifteen players have already assembled in Auckland for a training camp that will last until the end of June. Coach Jitka Klimková will be set to name her 23-strong squad for the tournament at the end of this camp.
As the tournament approaches, more players are set to join the the Football Ferns as they prepare early. Nine players are expected to join over the course of this month, with a further 11 joining in June once their club seasons in Europe have ended. Four additional players, including forward Jacqui Hand, midfielder Betsy Hasset, defender Ali Riley, and goalkeeper Erin Nayler, are set to juggle their club commitments right up until the squad is finalised.
However, the European Club Association recently raised concerns about players being called up for national team camps before July 10, the start of the official period designated by FIFA where players selected for the World Cup have to be released. It remains to be seen how this may impact the Football Ferns’ preparations for the tournament.
Despite the uncertainty, manager Jitka Klimková expressed optimism, stating that, so far, none of the players have declined the call-up. Players such as CJ Bott and Rebekah Stott, based in England, as well as Vic Esson and Olivia Chance, based in Scotland, are expected to arrive in Auckland “10 to 14 days” after their last club matches on the final weekend of May.
The arrival of these European-based players will coincide with the Kiwi’s final preparations before the World Cup. Their delayed inclusion could pose challenges for building team chemistry and finalising the squad ahead of the tournament.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino threatens blackout of TV coverage of the Women’s World Cup
Meanwhile, FIFA President Gianni Infantino issued a warning that a TV blackout of the upcoming Women’s World Cup is a possibility in Europe unless broadcasters improve their “unacceptable” offers for the rights. Speaking at a World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva, Infantino criticized the bids from major European countries, including Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France, stating that they were significantly lower compared to the men’s tournament and amounted to a “slap in the face” for players and women globally.
Infantino emphasized that it is FIFA‘s moral and legal obligation not to undersell the Women’s World Cup. If the offers do not improve, he stated that FIFA may be forced to refrain from broadcasting the tournament in the “big five” European countries.
Despite the time-zone difference, Infantino argued that this should not be used as an excuse, considering that many games will kick off at 9 or 10 am in Europe. Most matches will take place outside prime-time viewing hours for European markets.
Infantino pointed out that while the viewing figures for the Women’s World Cup reach 50-60% of those of the men’s tournament (which are already the highest of any event), the offers from broadcasters in the “Big 5” European countries are 20 to 100(!) times lower than for the men’s FIFA World Cup. He characterised this discrepancy as a disrespect to the players and women worldwide.