Centralisation of archive allowed Fifa to offer matches free says commercial chief Thomas

Fifa’s chief commercial officer Simon Thomas has said the decision by the governing body to take its audiovisual archive services in-house has enabled it to offer more than 30 historic matches free of charge to rights-holding broadcasters during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Last week the governing body announced it had made the archive matches available to support its broadcast partners and serve isolated football fans during the crisis.

Switzerland-based agency Infront previously managed the sales and customised production of the archive, which includes matches dating back to the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay.

Under the management of former director of television services Josh Smith, Fifa took back control of these operations and the resources early last year, with the physical match footage moved from Infront’s offices in Zug to Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

Speaking exclusively to SportBusiness in a video interview, Thomas said the decision, which predated his appointment as chief commercial officer, had offered the governing body the flexibility to respond to the crisis.

He said: “If we were dealing with an agency in between we probably would have had a more complicated set of conversations around the financial implications.

“We were able to react much more quickly and say ‘this is the right thing to do’.”

Thomas added that, at the time of the interview, the archive matches, which included the official 2018 Men’s World Cup film and matches from the 2014 Men’s World Cup and 2019 Women’s World Cup had been viewed over 1.5 million times.

He said the FifaTV YouTube channel had generated more than 14 million views over the seven-day period encompassing the matches, compared with 6.6 million views for the same period last year.

The watch the full video interview with Simon Thomas, click here.