There is no Such Thing as the Right to Watch the World Cup

Badna ne7dar

Let’s get this out of the way first: FIFA is greedy. Very greedy. The international body responsible for the world cup tries to squeeze out every single penny it can from our pockets. It sells very expensive ads and then it double dips by selling broadcasting rights for exorbitant prices. If FIFA were a website, it would set up a high pay wall to access it and then it would litter it with display ads, text ads and sponsored posts to the point that you struggle to find its main content. Again: “Greedy”.

That said, it seems people need to be reminded that there’s no such thing as “the right to watch the world cup”, a phrase we are hearing constantly in Lebanon following the debacle over broadcasting rights that left many people incapable of watching the games.

People are feeling this way because they have always managed to watch the games for free. Our shock stems from the fact that someone has finally managed to come up with a copy-right technology that we couldn’t hack our way around. In the end, this is a business that is run by a private corporation, FIFA. We don’t eat at restaurants for free. We don’t go to the cinema for free. Even the players are not playing for free. Why should we watch the world cup for free? We feel we are entitled to watch the worldcup because it involves intangibles like national pride, the brotherhood of men and the beauty of sports, but in the end, it’s all about balancing the books for FIFA.

Many Lebanese are also shocked that the government or municipalities don’t just subsidize our access to the world cup, tax-payer-money be damned. Governments subsidizing sporting events is an old tradition of authoritarian regimes who want the “mobs” to spend their energy on activities other than revolting against the government. There is plenty of government hating in Lebanon, but that still doesn’t justify taking away millions of dollars from salaries of public employees and spending them on our game-viewing pleasures.

The real problem is that FIFA is a monopoly, a corrupt monopoly at that. FIFA doesn’t feel it needs to stem its greed because no other body is competing with it for organizing the world’s beautiful game. Competition would magically transform us, the viewers, from powerless consumers meekly touting our “right to watch the world cup” to king-makers who drive down prices and broaden access to the game. This is where our anger should be directed.

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  • US resident

    I agree! Even here in the US you can’t watch it for free if you don’t have cable. One local channel (ABC) is broadcasting only 10 of the games, and the rest is shown on ESPN which you need a cable subscription for. It’s the same thing in the US, people. Chill!

  • Manal

    True, but other countries in Europe do pay a fee.. but it ranges between 10 – 60 euros… here in Lebanon, it’s around $300 for us who don’t have the digital receiver… come on!

  • eddy

    Why do companies pay a lot of money for advertising during the world cup? Precisely because millions upon millions of people watch the games. The value of the advertising space is astronomical due to the number of people it can reach. We are paying by giving them our attention. Think of all those free games you download on your phones, you don’t pay a penny, yet successful games still make a lot of money. Everyone wins, the game designer makes money, the app stores make money, and the players play for free but they have to put up with ads. Why can’t the world cup be the same? As you said, GREED. Greed is not OK.

    • Mustapha

      Exactly, which is why I brought up the website analogy. It is known that if you’re selling ads for your website, you should drop the paywall to get as much eyeballs as you can.. I’m surprised the advertisers are not revolting against FIFA

  • Tarek

    I do agree with you.. Personally I’m against piracy, against those cable thieves in Lebanon, against pirating music online etc… So what the exclusive agent did in Lebanon is purely legal and commercially makes sense, etc…

    BUT, Football as they keep saying is the poor man’s sport. It’s not sailing or golf.. It appeals to the masses. In Lebanon. Now is the ONLY time when the Lebanese will split for non-sectarian or political reasons… When Sunnis and Maronites will cheer the same team and Shiites and Druze in a neighborhood will unite around the flags they are dangling from their balconies in some alley in Barbour. (I am reminded here by an article, I think I read on your blog: Lebanon needs more football teams!)

    Plus, the Lebanese need a break. We’re jumping from one shit storm to the next. The elite can summer in Paghi and get refreshed; but the majority of people are glued to propaganda TV stations spewing one venomous story after the next about how bad things are and the الوضع الدقيق and how these people will never get a break. If the Government subsidized this for a trivial trivial amount such as $3 million, then it’s not such a bad thing. It’s not money coming out of Public Employee’s pockets. It’s money that was going to be wasted on something, being spent on something more meaningful. Plus the Lebanese have gotten used to the Government doing that; previously we watched it on TL. Last World Cup, the government negotiated a deal! Maybe next time they bargain directly instead of having to bargain with a middle man!

    BTW doesn’t Harb just stink of presidency desire??!! 😀

    • Mustapha

      Amen bro.. reasonable comment, and yes, Harb has always coveted the presidency (I even wrote a post in 2005 endorsing him! )

    • George

      Lebanon’s situation is very complicated. What interested me the most in your comment is the last sentence. Harb. I am very curious as to what this man is up to. We must be careful though.

      • Tarek

        Agreed… I’m not his biggest fan and I doubt that this benevolence is for the sake of the people..

        At the risk of sounding like a Aouni, but I’m totally pissed that years of Sehnaoui trying to enhance the internet speeds in Lebanon only to be blocked by the worst piece of scum to walk on Lebanese land, Abdelmenhem Youssef, have failed while Boutros Harb an M14’er managed to do it on his first month in office.

        Now he’s championing this cause. Unfortunately we’ve become prone to doubt every good deed done by our politician because of the sheer sleaze that is our political system.

      • George


        This is a sad reality that any effort to further develop our country and enhance quality of life is entirely adopted by political sides and used as a bargaining chip.

        As you have mentioned, there are things that are extremely fishy going on in the MOT. Sehanoui introduced IMEI registration because, according to him, smuggling was costing the treasury. Yet, Harb came along and said that IMEI registration is what’s costing the treasury.

        There are no good deeds being done in Lebanon. It is all politics. What’s to stop Harb (and his sponsors) from bringing back old prices and downgrading all the services they managed to provide, if he loses his seat.

        What has been gained politically can be withdrawn politically.

        And the even more sad reality is that the Lebanese people will accept it. They accept anything thrown their way.