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FIFA is Close to a Deal with Apple to Broadcast the Revamped Club World Cup in a New Format

The upcoming Club World Cup, set to take place in the USA from June 15 to July 13, 2025, will mark a significant departure from its previous iterations. For the first time, 32 teams from around the world will compete, including 12 from Europe, six from South America, and four each from Africa, Asia, and CONCACAF (North and Central America), with one spot reserved for the host.

The competition will be named "FIFA Club World Cup." It's worth noting that all European tournament participants have already been determined. These include Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Juventus, Porto, Benfica, PSG, and Salzburg.

The New York Times, citing three sources familiar with the negotiations, reports that the deal amount might be only a quarter of the expected $4 billion – $1 billion instead. If an agreement is reached, FIFA will, for the first time, sign a unified international contract for broadcast rights. However, it's unclear if the deal with Apple will involve free broadcasting of the matches. Concerns have been raised within FIFA's top management that matches might only be available to Apple TV+ subscribers. Any contentious issues are expected to be resolved by the end of April 2024.

Sports are gradually becoming an essential part of the Apple TV ecosystem. In 2023, Apple secured a deal to broadcast MLS matches. The Apple-MLS agreement spans 10 years (from 2023 to 2032) and is valued at $2.5 billion. This is the most significant rights deal in the league's history (compared to the previous contract where Fox, ESPN, and Univision paid $90 million per season). It represents Apple's most significant investment in sports broadcasting. In the Apple TV app, match broadcasts are available for purchase at $14.99 per month or $99 per season. Six games per week are shown for free. Subscribers to Apple TV+ enjoy slightly lower prices: $12.99 per month or $79 per season. Viewers also get access to expert studios, picture-in-picture viewing, and the ability to revisit match moments.

It's logical to assume that Apple's interest in acquiring the Club World Cup is not only for additional broadcast revenue from matches involving leading world teams but also to strengthen its position against competitors. In January 2024, it was revealed that Netflix had signed a deal with the globally recognized wrestling promotion World Wrestling Entertainment to broadcast fights starting January 2025. Citing its sources, Bloomberg reported that the 10-year agreement with Netflix was valued at $5 billion. The platform will broadcast wrestling matches from WWE's flagship show, Monday Night Raw, in the USA, Canada, the UK, Latin American countries, and others. Netflix also acquired rights to WWE recap shows and documentaries.

In February 2024, ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery announced plans to launch a new streaming service that will broadcast NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL games, NASCAR, PGA Tour Golf, and tennis tournaments from the Grand Slam series. Never before have so many prestigious competitions been united under one roof. The specifics of how this will be implemented are currently unknown.

Regarding FIFA, the new format of the Club World Cup represents an excellent opportunity to increase revenues, especially considering the tournament will be held in North America, where interest in European clubs during the offseason is immense. After Lionel Messi's move to Inter Miami, soccer gained additional popularity in this part of the world. In March 2023, FIFA President Gianni Infantino stated that from 2022 to 2026, the federation plans to generate $11 billion in revenue. This amount is $3.5 billion more than in the previous four-year cycle ($7.5 billion). President Infantino emphasized that this figure does not include potential income from the Club World Cup and added that "the bonuses from the upcoming event could exceed even the boldest financial expectations." As for the participants, Sky Sport reports that potentially all teams will receive £50 million.

After the announcement of the expansion of the 2025 Club World Cup, the International Federation of Professional Footballers Associations sharply criticized the decision. They noted that a significant tournament between the Euros and the World Cup is an unjustified additional burden on players. FIFPro emphasized that players constantly complain about the sharp increase in workload during the season. Furthermore, the expanded Club World Cup contradicts the existing regulations, according to which each footballer must have 28 days of rest between seasons. The union added that some players could play more than 80 matches in a year, which exceeds the norm by 10%.

Published by Patrick Jane