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.