Coverage of the Fifa Women’s World Cup which gets under way this Friday will set all sorts of new benchmarks for Women’s sport but also for sports broadcasting here.
RTÉ showed the Final of the tournament online in 2007 but such has been the advance of awareness and appetite for Women’s sport that it was an easy decision to make to secure the rights to broadcast more of the 2019 edition, even in the absence of the Republic of Ireland.
An initial thought to show the Quarter Finals and on was qyuickly expanded to taking on rights for the whole tournament and opening discussions with TG4 about their taking on games where there was a clash with other sporting coverage on RTÉ.
Again that was a discussion whaich was readily welcomed with TG4 as long time backers and broadcasters of the Ladies Gaelic Football Al Ireland Championship.
The split as it happened was that RTÉ will show 23 games including three quarter finals, one semi final and the Final itself and that TG4 will show 29, including the opening game on Friday night and a lot of the weekend matches.
Every minute of every game will be free to air and it has to be hoped that the TV coverage will spill over into mainstream media in the same way as it has in Britain.
The absence of Ireland from the tournament, having finished third in qualifying to two of Europe’s strongest teams from Norway and the Netherlands does leave a gap in our engagement. But we weren’t at the 2018 Men’s World Cup and yet that still produced ten of the Top 50 most viewed TV programmes of 2018 including the England Vs Croatia semi final that drew a larger audience than either of the All Ireland Football or Hurling finals.
The further England advance in the competition the more enthusiasm there will be across the water and the greater the impact it will have on irish audiences as well.
Both broadcasters are putting real weight behind the competition and the coverage will echo that we enjoyed last year. Jacqui Hurley will share anchor duties with Darragh Maloney and Peter Collins, while George Hamilton, Adrian Eames and John Kenny will be in the commentary seat for all their games.
The line up of analysts and co commentators will introduce a number of new faces and voices to the screen, every one of which will bring insight and persepctive.
Lisa Fallon has featured at a number of Sport for Business events and has worked with Cork City and Northern Ireland as a performance analyst in recent years. Ruth Fahy was in our 30 Under 30 list last year and swapped playing for Wexford and Ireland for a new carrreer as a solicitor with William Fry. They will work alongside current and former Ireland stars Stephanie Roche, Emma Byrne, Megan Campbell and Louise Quinn as well as Ireland Women’s team manager Colin Bell, Richie Sadlier and Kevin Doyle.
Elaine Buckley will be working as a producer for RTÉ, taking on board the experience she gained from last year’s Hockey World Cup but this year working as a full rights holder.
TG4 have less experience on the soccer side and are calling on broadcast experience from GAA and Rugby through Marcus Ó Buachalla, Cúan Ó Flatharta and Garry MacDonnacha in the commentary box and analysis from Valerie Mulcahy who played for Cork City alongside her Ladies Football career, Méabh De Burcam Laura Cusack, Aonghus Ó hEochaidh and Conall Ó Ciobháin.
Both stations are supporters of the 20X20 Campaign and will feature material promoting the importance of sport for girls and women throughout the programming.
“RTÉ are delighted that alongside TG4 we are, for the first time ever, bringing the FIFA Women’s World Cup in its entirety free-to-air to Irish viewers,” said Declan McBennett, RTÉ Group Head of Sport. “We are very much looking forward to the big kick-off this weekend and to showcasing the very best of women’s sport in one of the year’s biggest global events.”
“This is a tournament that deserves exposure and that’s what we will give it.”
“It deserves to be treated on its own merits and it is so important that we give young girls stars to look uop to in the same way as they might Seamus Coleman or Mo Salah.”
“TG4 are proud to be a supporter of Women’s Sport and are pleased to add our coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup to the many events, both national and international, that we have broadcast over the years,” added Rónán Ó Coisdealbha, Head of Sport TG4.
“We look forward to working with RTÉ in bringing this major sporting event to the Irish public.”
Sport for Business will cover the event in detail over the coming weeks, looking at it from a commercial as well as a social perspective. It will also feature as a major element of our 6th Annual Women in Sport Conference at the studios of RTÉ later this year.
Image Credit: Donall Farmer Photos