Fox to avoid World Cup off-field controversy in Qatar

Oct 13, 2022, 2:57 AM | Updated: 3:35 pm
David Neal, second from left, executive producer of Fox's FIFA World Cup coverage, speaks Thursday,...

David Neal, second from left, executive producer of Fox's FIFA World Cup coverage, speaks Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK (AP) — Fox plans to avoid coverage of Qatar’s controversial treatment of migrant workers during World Cup broadcasts, much as it didn’t address criticism of Russia’s government during the 2018 tournament.

“Our stance is if it affects what happens on the field of play, we will cover it and cover it fully,” David Neal, executive producer of Fox’s World Cup coverage, said Thursday. “But if it does not, if it is ancillary to the story of the tournament, there are plenty of other entities and outlets out there that are going to cover that. We firmly believe the viewers come to us to see what happens on the field, on the pitch.”

Neal spoke at an event to debut images of the network’s set in Doha made of LED screens, the hub of its coverage of a tournament that runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18.

“This set, in typical subtle Fox fashion,” he said, “I think it will be visible from Mars,”

Qatar has been criticized over its treatment of the workers who built the World Cup venues. Paris’ city government will not broadcast World Cup matches on giant screens in public fan zones amid concerns over rights violations of migrant workers and the environmental impact of the tournament in Qatar.

Neal said he did not regret bypassing coverage of issues such as racism and sexism in Russia four years ago.

“I think the quizzical thing about what’s happened with Russia is that they took all that international goodwill that they had correctly earned as a really great host of the World Cup, and that’s now gone,” Neal said.

Fox took over from ESPN as the FIFA’s U.S. English-language World Cup broadcaster starting with the 2015 women’s tournament and has rights through the 2026 men’s tournament in the United States, Mexico and Canada. It will televise 34 of 64 matches this year on the main Fox network and the remainder on its FS1 cable network.

U.S. Spanish-language television rights are held by NBCUniversal’s Telemundo.

Fox will have commentators call all matches from stadiums in Qatar, where the eight venues are within 35 miles (55 kilometers) of Doha. Four years ago, the 12 venues were spread around Russia and Fox called 33 matches onsite, including all but one during the knockout rounds.

John Strong and Stu Holden, the lead announce team, attended the event along with host Rob Stone, analysts Alexi Lalas and Maurice Edu, and reporter Jenny Taft.

With the tournament shifted from its traditional June/July time slot because of Qatar’s summer heat, games will take place during the NFL and college football seasons. Fox debuted a “Superfan Santa” advertisement last weekend tying soccer to Santa Claus.

“On Thanksgiving Day, yes, it’s great to be around family. It’s better to be around the television with your family so you don’t have to talk to them all the time,” Stone said. “So Thanksgiving Day, it is Luis Suárez. It is Cristiano Ronaldo. It is Neymar. It is Cowboys-Giants. That’s a lot of TV. That’s a lot of time you don’t have to talk to the in-laws.”

Some weekend games will overlap football coverage on Fox and other networks.

“When we first saw the tournament being moved to November/December, we, like a lot of people said, oh, boy, that’s tough. It’s against football,” Neal said. “We came to realize that it’s an advantage. The simple fact is there’s more eyeballs available in November and December than there is in the summer. There’s more people available to television who are able to tune in, and instead of having to attract people in from the beach to watch what we’re doing, they’re already there.”

The U.S. is back in the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament.

“One of our proudest moments as an entity, certainly as a World Cup rights holder, was the month worth of storytelling that we did in Russia, and it was about that 33rd character: 32 teams and the host country,” Neal said. “This time around we got a huge advantage over that because we got the United States there. The United States team I think we all believe has a legitimate chance of getting out of the group stage.”

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A member of the AlKuwari family shows the trophy after winning the first prize at the Mzayen World ...
Associated Press

Camel pageant among attractions on World Cup sidelines

ASH-SHHANIYA, Qatar (AP) — Like all good pageant contestants, Nazaa’a displayed not only dazzling beauty but also poise and grace. She batted her eyelashes and flashed a toothy smile for the television cameras at the Mzayen World Cup, a pageant held in the Qatari desert about 15 miles (25 kilometers) away from Doha and soccer’s […]
1 day ago
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson throws a pass during an NFL football practice at the te...
Associated Press

Watson has better shot winning with Browns than fixing image

Deshaun Watson has a better chance of leading the Cleveland Browns to their first Super Bowl title than rebuilding his public image. The disgraced quarterback wouldn’t address his 11-game suspension for sexual misconduct or his league-mandated therapy sessions on Thursday in his first comments since returning to the Browns. “I have been advised to stay […]
1 day ago
Japan's Kaoru Mitoma appears to have the ball over the line before crossing it for a goal during th...
Associated Press

AP photo catches key moment before Japan’s World Cup goal

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — From most angles, it looked like the ball went out of play just before Japan scored its winning goal in the 2-1 victory against Spain in the World Cup. Associated Press photographer Petr David Josek took a photo from above that appears to support the referee’s decision to allow it. Josek’s […]
1 day ago
Belgium's Leandro Trossard, left, and Croatia's Josko Gvardiol fight for the ball during the World ...
Associated Press

‘Little Pep’ Gvardiol coming up big for Croatia at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — For 90 minutes, the hulking, masked mass that is Josko Gvardiol kept Belgium’s big-name strikers at bay with timely tackles — none bigger than his stop on Romelu Lukaku two minutes into stoppage time. Then the 20-year-old Croat who is fast becoming the most sought-after center back in Europe went over […]
1 day ago
Christian Pulisic of the United States attends a press conference before a training session at Al-G...
Associated Press

US star Pulisic on track to play against Dutch in World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Christian Pulisic is on track to play for the United States in its World Cup round of 16 match against the Netherlands on Saturday, Pulisic left Tuesday’s final group stage match against Iran at halftime after bruising his pelvic bone in a collision with the goalkeeper while scoring in the 38th […]
1 day ago
Spain players leave the pitch at the end of the World Cup group E soccer match between Japan and Sp...
Associated Press

Spain in recovery mode after losing to Japan at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — It’s not how Spain imagined reaching the knockout phase of the World Cup: finishing the group stage with a loss and having to rely on other teams to help it advance. Spain survived but heads into the round of 16 against Morocco with bruised confidence after losing 2-1 to Japan. “We […]
1 day ago
Fox to avoid World Cup off-field controversy in Qatar