fifa

Sexist Coverage of the World Cup

No, I am not talking about Patrice Evra’s applauding of fellow ITV pundit and England footballer Eniola Aluko (nor his muttered “no clapping” moan in a subsequent match).

Nor am I talking about the various people who are upset that women deign to commentate on a football match.

(Incidentally, “Remote Controller” in the new issue of Private Eye needs to take a long hard look at himself)

No. Instead, I want to talk about the coverage itself. As I mentioned previously, this tournament is covered on behalf of FIFA by Host Broadcast Services, who provide the pictures that every broadcaster takes.

Basically, it’s pretty sexist.

Let me explain why. I don’t have the demographic breakdown of ticket buyers for the World Cup, and I don’t doubt that it’s a mixed crowd. However, I would argue that it’s predominantly male. There are definitely females there. How many I couldn’t guess. But I would need strong convincing otherwise to be persuaded that there weren’t more males than females in the crowd.

But you wouldn’t necessarily know that from the TV pictures. The TV cameras, when they show close-ups of people in the crowd, are as likely as not to show a women. Probably quite an attractive woman. Failing that, it’ll be a child. But mostly women. They might be wearing the team shirt, and perhaps have face paint on or be adorned with flags. But they will be a woman.

Essentially there are one or more camera operators during each match whose job seems to be to find the prettiest, most colourfully dressed people in the stadium, and put them on camera for the world to see. It’s utterly blatant.

It gets worse. Danny Baker related on one of his radio shows that when he was in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup he happened to sitting near a women who featured on the coverage. She was a paid model, and, he recalled, she had been alerted in advance when she would be on camera so that she was whooping and cheering when they cut to her.

Is FIFA still populating the crowd with models who’s job it is to look pretty for the cameras? I don’t know. But I do find the coverage objectionable. I might not especially want to see a shirtless beer-bellied supporter in particular, but that might be a more accurate representation of the crowd. This does seem to be a FIFA problem. You don’t tend to see it Premier League coverage, and nor does it seem especially prevalent in UEFA Champions’ League coverage. But who would have thought it? FIFA seems to have retrograde view of the game that they want to spice up.

As it stands, it feels very creepy – a long lens camera scouring the ground for pretty girls to zoom in on. It’s the sort of thing the Daily Mail does on a hot day.

There are also some tell-tale giveaways. If the crowd member is wearing a lanyard of some description, then they’re probably a VIP. Perhaps they have tickets via a sponsor. They almost certainly didn’t go into some national federation’s draw for tickets.

I’m not saying FIFA is the worst. Formula 1 might have got rid of “pit girls,” but too many cycling events still have “podium girls” who have to give winning riders a big kiss. For the Giro d’Italia, they seemingly have to apply a particular kind of lipstick guaranteed to leave marks on a rider’s cheeks.

Even worse is the Indian Premier League. The crowd shots there seem to exclusively be of the wealthy cricket-goers in the executive levels. Lots of glamorous men and women do that usual feigning of wanting to be on screen, while you know they love it. Rarely do cameras head higher up into the stands where the cheaper seats are, unless a six is landing in that section.

Worse still is the fact that they employ cheerleaders. This does not sound like the most edifying experience from comments made in 2015 AMA conducted by one of the dancers.

“I hate the racism. Why is my team made up of 99% white girls? Why do Indians feel it’s ok to dress white girls up in skimpy outfits but they won’t let their fellow Indian women do it? It’s messed up.

“I’ve asked my managers [about why no Indian girls as cheerleaders] and they don’t know. I’ll keep asking around, though, because I’m curious too. They could probably just get good dancers and train them; there’s no shortage of those.”

Sexist and racist? At least the latter is, thus far, missing at the World Cup, and FIFA hasn’t, to my knowledge, suggested adding cheerleaders to the mix.

But let’s stop the leering crowd cameras. Show us regular fans cheering or sobbing (but skip the kids doing that please). And leave the models at home.

Qatar 2022: Winners and Losers

I’m just trying to see who the winners and losers of Qatar 2022 will be following FIFA’s decision to hold the World Cup in November and December rather than the traditional summer slot:

WinnersLosers
Qatar: They're desperate to hold any sport they can, and they're willing to throw as much money as possible to get those sports. Next up - seriously - The Olympics.Immigrant workers: Bonded slavery and/or death.
Sepp Blatter: The fool in charge of FIFA thinks playing football in a desert is a great idea.Fans: While I'm sure local Qataris will be very welcoming, the severe laws will almost certainly mean a diminished number of fans actually wanting to travel. If Bangladesh or Nepal make it through, then expect loads of fans!
Air conditioning companies: We sure are going to need a lot of them.European Football: You know, the people who provide 75% of the players at the World Cup. The leagues will have to accommodate the World Cup somehow, and that probably means starting pretty soon after the 2021/22 season has finished and ending well into the summer of 2023. The other option is to play through as everyone does for the African Cup of Nations. But how would that go down with a Man City, Chelsea or Arsenal, packed with internationals?
Sponsors: I just can't see audiences engaging, and that's bad for sponsors. Matches played in half empty stadiums don't look good either.
Cricket, Rugby Union, Rugby League, Tennis, Basketball, NFL. Sports don't exist in isolation. Audiences can only watch one thing at a time. Many sports rely on windows of opportunity. So that means competition from domestic football in the summer, and the World Cup in the winter.
Broadcasters: While we all enjoy the fun of trying to work out whether ITV or BBC is showing a particular Quater Final, it's less of a problem in the summer. Broadcasters don't have big expensive drama series or reality shows culminating in series finales in the summer. But these are critical shows in the winter. Especially for...
Commercial Broadcasters: The World Cup and European Football Championships are very important for a broadcaster like ITV. Traditionally summer is a poor advertising time. So getting a massive boost from beer brands and the like every couple of years is an important part of earnings. And it doesn't follow that this money "moves" to the winter. Because November and December are also really important times for broadcasters. The run-up to Christmas is annually vital to make hay while the big X-Factors and Downtons are running. Effectively, the commercial broadcasters are losing one of these periods, despite having paid for the rights. (And while you might not shed a tear for ITV, it's worth remembering that it's that advertising that partially keeps big tournament football free on our screens).
Viewers: Not everyone likes football. Hard to believe, I know. But as explained above this is going to mess up schedules for TV viewers. Could we actually see matches shunted to BBC2 or ITV4?
FIFA: It's become a laughing stock. A corrupt laughing stock. (Remind me when that Sepp Blatter biopic is coming out again?)

I suspect that there are many more losers, and not very many more winners.

I do think there’s a strong chance that FIFA will fold or become irrelevant. I hate to say this, but we need a breakaway group of nations to form a new competition with a new organisation at the helm.