Valcke maintains Fifa’s innocence over new US rights deal

Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke has maintained world football’s governing body did “nothing wrong” in negotiating its new US rights deal for the World Cup, adding the agreement was needed to protect date changes for the 2022 tournament in Qatar.

US broadcasters ESPN and Univision in February expressed their disappointment after Fifa awarded the rights to its four-year cycle from 2023 to 2026 without an open bidding process.

Fifa renewed rights deals with the Fox network and pay-television broadcaster Telemundo, with the packages including the 2026 World Cup, an event for which the US has been strongly linked to a bid.

However, Valcke told the Bloomberg news agency that Fox was granted the extension to “make sure there are no issues regarding the decision on the time the World Cup would be played.”

Fifa last month announced that Qatar 2022 will conclude on December 18, the country’s national holiday, with the objective, in principle, of staging the tournament in 28 days – four days shorter than usual.

Fox had questioned Fifa’s proposal to reschedule the World Cup from its traditional June-July window to protect players and fans from Qatar’s hot summer climate. The broadcaster said it acquired the rights in the belief the tournament would be played in summer months.

Fifa’s new deal with Fox extended its rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, a contract the broadcaster signed more than three years ago. “We have done nothing wrong,” Valcke added. “The deal is good for Fifa, the deal is good for Fox. That’s the most important part, and we have done everything which is in line with international standards.”

Financial details of the new contract have yet to be disclosed, but Valcke said it is worth more than the $1bn (€929.4m) Fox and Telemundo are paying for the next two World Cups combined. Bloomberg said the fee will be even higher should the US win hosting rights to the 2026 World Cup.

Valcke maintained the decision to play the 2022 World Cup in December affects the US more than most other countries because it coincides with the end of the NFL American football season. “At the same time in winter they have the end of the NFL season, they are in the different American sports seasons which are important for them,” he added.