Chelsea at the World Club Cup
20,000 Brazilians will be making the trip, with tens of millions watching at home: but here it doesn't even have a TV deal. Does anyone in Britain care about the FIFA Club World Cup?
December 7th, 2012
Matches kicked off on Thursday 6th December, with the enticing prospect of Sanfrecce Hiroshima v Auckland City – but so far the tournament has barely merited a mention in the UK mainstream media. European Champions Chelsea will fly out on Saturday 8th: straight from Newcastle Airport, following their Premier League clash with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Then, and in the following days, almost 1,000 fans will make the trip from the UK.
But for those left at home, following the games may be almost impossible.
The problem is that FIFA treats the competition as a flagship event. Interest in South America is incredible; with the tournament ranking higher in the continental football calendar than the Copa Libertadores. Over there, millions will be glued to screens in the pubs and bars of Brazil to see Corinthians compete for what is seen as the planet’s biggest trophy in club football: hence the huge numbers also travelling to Japan.
At home, people in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and elsewhere will watch as their continent’s representative battles against the cream of world club football. In keeping with this clamour, FIFA charges a small fortune for broadcast rights – for which there is keen competition.
In Europe, however, interest is significantly less piqued. Our obsession with competitions such as the Champions League, and UEFA’s local control of the fixture calendar, means the competition is pushed into a corner of the year where people have better things to think about. European football is dominated by club preferences, the concept of the exhibition match between two teams we don’t care about is largely confined to matches such as El Clasico or the Champions League final.
TV schedules here are packed right now with Christmas specials, and the Japanese location for the competition means that 10.30am kick off times (the Jeremy Kyle slot) are of little use to anyone in Britain. Those FIFA broadcast rights, so attractive to South American TV, aren’t much of a draw for the Europeans.
There is the possibility that a late TV deal could be done before Chelsea’s first match on Thursday 13th. But it looks unlikely to be with a mainstream broadcaster. Several niche stations, Chelsea TV included, are said to be leaving it until the last minute to put in a bid for UK broadcast rights in the hope of getting a bargain deal. But even then, the chances of most fans getting to see any action from Japan look slim.
When Chelsea first won the league championship in 1955, the achievement came in the midst of a newspaper strike. There are no back pages on record reflecting the club’s achievement. Should the Blues lift the Club World Cup on Sunday 16th December, they may find the achievement makes similarly scant headlines.
Dan Levene will be reporting on the FIFA Club World Cup live from Japan. For the latest news, follow him on Twitter @blueschronicle