Fox’s Qatar World Cup coverage has a notable sponsor: Qatar


In recent weeks, the American TV rights holders for the next World Cup have held press conferences before this most unusual tournament in Qatar. At each, executives from Fox, which owns the English rights, and Telemundo, which owns the Spanish rights, were asked how they planned to cover the host country’s human rights record.

Fox executive producer David Neal says his network won’t seek to do the work of “Real Sports” or “E:60,” newsmagazine-style shows known for tackling thorny issues. out of the field. “We really believe that viewers come to see us at Fox Sports for the World Cup to see the World Cup,” he said.

Telemundo Deportes president Ray Warren reacted differently. He said the network’s news division and that of sister network NBC would cover the events in Qatar, adding that on the sports side: “I think we need to talk about the legacy we are leaving. At the end of the tournament, we [won’t have been] ignoring the geopolitical problems that may arise.

A spokeswoman for Telemundo, which is owned by Comcast, later said the network would follow NBC Sports’ approach to that year’s Winter Olympics in China; the hosts discussed the alleged Uyghur genocide during coverage of the opening ceremonies. The network expects to address the human rights situation in Qatar as part of its opening day coverage on Sunday and throughout the tournament as needed.

The divergent strategies of the two broadcasters tasked with bringing the World Cup to American audiences will be examined next month as Western journalists, fans and soccer players arrive in Qatar, a theocratic monarchy strictly governed by Muslim laws and customs. The American team unveiled a new rainbow crest which will be exhibited in his hotel in response to laws prohibiting homosexuality in Qatar. The Australian team posted a video in support of the LGBTQ+ community and workers’ rights.

Top British diplomat urges LGBT World Cup fans to be ‘respectful’ in Qatar

For Fox, the strategy is identical to how it handled the World Cup in Russia four years ago. But there’s another dynamic at play in Qatar: Qatar Airways, the state-owned airline, will serve as a major sponsor of network coverage, meaning Fox’s production in Qatar is essentially guaranteed by the Qatari government.

In June, Neal told the Sports Business Journal that Fox will send a ‘small army’ of 150 staff and advertisers to Qatar and that Fox would be the first US network to have in-stadium announcers for all World Cup games, in part because the venues are so close together.

But according to three people familiar with Fox’s plans, the network initially planned to primarily use remote production and send a minimal contingent of employees and talent to Qatar. The strategy only changed after the deal was finalized with Qatar Airways; that deal included free flights to Qatar, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity to reveal private discussions.

The relationship between the airline and the network dates back to last year, when Qatar Airways announced a partnership with Concacaf and was main sponsor for Fox’s Gold Cup cover, including signage on his studio set.

The Telemundo spokeswoman said Qatar Airways was not a sponsor of her coverage.

The Qataris hope to use the World Cup to showcase their country to a wider global audience. An important part of that is having the US broadcaster in the country, said two of the people briefed on the deal. They described Fox executives as celebrating the deal because the network can deliver a more robust broadcast to viewers but won’t have to pay for it.

The fox has unveiled an elaborate studio on the Doha waterfront which includes four stages and more than 20 LED screens.

In a statement, Fox said: “Qatar Airways is a major sponsor of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and will have a significant presence across all of our coverage of the tournament. They, as well as our portfolio of premier sponsors , allow us to present unparalleled coverage of what is arguably one of the best World Cups of all time with the long-awaited return of the United States Men’s National Team.

Asked if Qatar Airways’ sponsorship had any impact on his coverage, a Fox spokesperson replied, “Absolutely not.”

After this story was published, a Fox spokeswoman sent an additional statement to the Post, denying that the network’s deal with Qatar Airways included free flights.

The vision of the world today: the political debate around the World Cup in Qatar

The change in schedule from the usual summer World Cup was made to accommodate the extreme heat in Qatar and would be a headache for any US broadcaster. Instead of sharing the summer with baseball alone, this tournament will compete for viewers with the NFL and college football. Fox reportedly paid over $400 million for the four men’s and women’s World Cups between 2015 and 2023. Telemundo would pay around $600 million.

Coverage of the tournament – ​​and the reaction of Qataris to that coverage – will be closely watched. In an eleventh-hour decision, Qatar Reverse course and sale of alcohol prohibited in stadiums. It was a top story for many media on Friday morning, and was noted in the latest news section of Telemundo Deportes’ website, but not on Fox Sports. Before the start of the tournament, a Danish cameraman this week had a run-in with Qatari officials who threatened to break his camera for filming a live report in a public place.

Athleticism published an article this week by football editor Alex Kay-Jelski detailing his mixed feelings, as a gay man and sports journalist, about the coverage of the tournament.

“Some [reporters] will write about great games and goals, others will write stories about lineups or spinoffs,” he wrote. “But many will also focus on what is happening off the pitch, how some LGBT+ fans need to stay in safe houses, the families of the workers who died building the stadiums, the senseless politics that have brought the tournament to Qatar, about the reality of life for the women who live there, and will live there again once the circus packs up and leaves.

Qatar Airways has been a visible brand in international football for several years. It was the forward shirt sponsor of Spanish powerhouse Barcelona from 2013 to 2017 before the club terminated the agreement for “social issues”. Today, Qatar Airways is a shirt sponsor for Bayern Munich in Germany, although club members have pressured administrators not to renew the deal when it expires in 2023.

At the team’s annual general meeting last month, Oliver Kahn, the team’s general manager, said“There has been progress in Qatar on labor rights and human rights. No one has suggested that Qatar is a country that meets European standards. But if you want to change and initiate something, you have to meet people, talk to them and exchange ideas instead of excluding them.

Steven Goff contributed to this report.

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