Will Thailand Finally Get To Watch The World Cup?

The most anticipated football event of the year is kicking-off and things were looking rather bleak for Thai football fans. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), the authority that regulates Thailand’s broadcasting and telecom industries, had failed to seal the deal with FIFA on the rights to broadcast live the 64 matches which begin on November 20th at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

This situation was all the more perplexing since the NBTC actually has a written rule, informally called the “Must Have, Must Carry”, which states that the showing of major sports events, including the 2022 Qatar World Cup, are obligatory to be shown for free on Thailand television.

So how did the country land itself in this unpleasant pickle, especially given how well-known Thailand’s passion for football is?

Issues With Financing

On the 13th of November, just one week before the official start of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, Thailand was faced with a steep asking prince from the Football Federation of no less than 1.6 billion BAHT (roughly 44.6 million USD). The country’s government argued that this price tag is much higher than any of its neighbors and tried to negotiate with FIFA to lower the amount while also approaching several avenues for financing, including borrowing from other government branches and the private sector.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn stated his aim for the Sports Authority of Thailand to negotiate a cost of 1.2 billion BAHT. After negotiating sponsorships, Phiphat planned to use private advertising to pay back the remaining 600 million he would borrow from the National Sports Development Fund.

Just to give an idea of how much more money Thailand had to pull out of its pocket compared to neighboring countries, Singapore is reported to have bought the rights to the 2022 World Cup at a price of 948 million BAHT; the Malaysian national television station bought the rights to broadcast live matches with about 261 million BAHT while Vietnam was left with its wallet lighter by approximately 532 million BAHT for the rights live show to all 64 matches held during the event.

Funding was eventually secured through the combined efforts of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, the Thai Development Fund for Public Interests, and the country’s three largest corporations – True Corporation, Thai Beverage, and PTT.

People And Businesses Alike Were Worried

Many hotel owners had concerns about airing the next World Cup in Thailand live on television before the arrangement was concluded. The head of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, has said that foreign visitors to Thailand anticipate the opportunity of watching the World Cup and that many of them consider this a standard amenity they are entitled to when staying at hotels during this time.

She was quoted as saying that since the competition lasts for a full month, many visitors may be dissatisfied if Thailand is unable to get the necessary license.

While in reality tourists who have already booked a vacation in Thailand during the period were unlikely to change their plans based on whether or not they get to see the World Cup matches live, for bars and pubs it was an entirely different story. These venues were hoping for a massive influx of clients, both locals, and tourists, drawn in by special promotions running during the event.

All in all, missing the big event live on television would have been a major loss for many businesses, not to mention the avid fans who would have had to find other, likely more complicated, methods of viewing the matches.

The Negotiations Were Successful

Given that FIFA had yet to respond to the Thai Government’s request for negotiations a week before the start of the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, many were left pessimistic at the chances to secure broadcasting rights, but just as some of the most spectacular goals happen in the final minute of a football match, a new deal came through.

The governor for the Sports Authority of Thailand, Kongsak Yodmanee, announced on Thursday, the 17th of November, one day before the final deadline to secure a deal, that FIFA had agreed to offer a discount of 400 million BAHT, bringing the sum to 1.2 billion. This doesn’t include the 15% tax that is levied for these kinds of deals, so the final amount is closer to 1.4 billion, but it’s still a great victory for the SAT and the Thai people who will get to see all 64 matches played live on television during what is arguably the biggest football event of the year.