I think only the most outlandish optimist believes that Australia is a certainty to host the World Cup. Not because Australia couldn’t do it. Quite the opposite. Australia is such a sport loving country which is wealthy with great infrastructure and organisational ability that would host a fantastic World Cup. The problem is the tyranny of distance which has been part and parcel of Australia’s conditions ever since the British occupation.
So while the FIFA official evaluation report for Australia is overwhelmingly positive, our ‘distance’ is highlighted a major negative note occurs in section 4.17 – Media and marketing rights (p. 23).
FIFA generates a substantial part of its revenues through TV income (via sales of its media rights), which is mainly driven by TV ratings and related values in each part of the world. The TV ratings are affected by what time of the day the match is shown live in each territory of the world. In the past (and the same will still apply to the 2014 FIFA World CupTM), TV income from the world’s markets has not been evenly spread: Europe still generates the largest share. As TV income is closely linked to TV ratings for the FIFA World CupTM (in turn, advertising spend is dependent on TV ratings and advertising rates differ from one country to another), there is a risk of a reduction in such income should the FIFA World CupTM be hosted in Australia (assuming a similar pattern of kick-off times as for previous FIFA World CupsTM). Australia’s time zones are UTC+10, UTC+9.5 and UTC+8, which means that matches would be shown very early in the day from a European TV perspective. In the Americas, the matches would be live in the middle of the night or very early in the morning in the eastern zones and late at night or in the middle of the night in the western time zones. In Europe and the Americas, audiences are generally lower in the middle of the night or earlier in the day compared to prime time or closer to prime time, and consequently, media companies in both continental zones would have more difficulty exploiting the media rights in order to recuperate their investments, which may negatively impact FIFA’s income.
That is true. We may be the envy of the world when it comes to weather and nice beaches but when I mention Australia and the World Cup in Italian football forums inevitably the time zone issue comes up.
But is it really that bad? As the evaluation report states it assume a similar pattern of kick-off times as for previous FIFA World Cups. So let’s speculate when match times can be on and what would be the times in Central Europe (Summer time) and in the countries with the biggest populations in South America, Argentina and Brazil.
|Australia EST||Europe CEST||South America (ART & BRT)|
|1 pm||5 am||midnight|
|6 pm||10 am||5 am|
|8.30 pm||12.30 pm||7.30 am|
There is no denying that you can’t totally satisfy both Europe and the Americas on times. A match at 1 pm will mean that an Italian would have a early rise and an Argentinian would go to bed late. However that may be the only real problematic time area. Once we move in the afternoon things may get easier. At 6 an European would be able to watch the game over breakfast/morning tea (remember that it will be summer there) while it would be South America to have an early rise.
The issue is almost redundant when we go at night time matches. Lunch for Europe and breakfast for South America. And remember that the most important matches at the end of the tournament are played at night.
Of course for us Australians watching sport in the middle of the night is normal, so we can’t scoff at Europeans and South Americans when they complain when faced with a match at sparrow’s fart as they are not used to it. And then it is not all great for all time zones either. In Brazil if they play a match at 8:30 pm it will be 1:30 am in Rome, and that’s not that convenient for Europeans either.
And of course I didn’t mention the big advantage that has already being put forward by the Australian bid. That Sydney and Melbourne are only two hours difference from Beijing and one hour from Tokyo, and that’s not an insignificant audience.