FIFA Rejects NBC's Deal to Televise '94 World Cup

Paul Gardner
Date Published: 
New York Times

Special To The New York Times

The executive committee of FIFA, soccer's international governing body, announced today that it would not approve the television contract arranged between the United States Soccer Federation and NBC for the 1994 World Cup tournament, which will be held in the United States.

The decision followed complaints lodged with FIFA by the ABC and TBS networks that they were not given a chance to bid for the 1994 World Cup rights. The United States federation maintains it had informed the other networks what was required and only NBC expressed interest in the contract.

''The executive committee does not disapprove of the transaction with NBC,'' Joseph (Sepp) Blatter, the general secretary of FIFA, said at a news conference. ''But we feel that a fair selection process must be done. FIFA will therefore conduct a selection process, and will invite all the United States networks, and cable television, to enter the process.'' A Second Rejection

The NBC deal, approved by the United States federation's board in August, was first rejected by FIFA on Sept. 19. The United States federation asked FIFA to reconsider, which it did, leading to today's rejection. Blatter said FIFA would draw up a set of conditions and a timetable for the bid procedure. He stressed that FIFA -not the United States federation -would select the winning bid.

Werner Fricker, president of the United States federation, said: ''I do not see today's decision as a setback. I see it as a positive decision. I now have the full authority to go ahead on behalf of the U.S. Soccer Federation to put together what I need to make soccer a spectator sport in the United States.''

Fricker explained that the original deal with NBC and SportsChannel America, its cable subsidiary, had two parts: first, an agreement to televise games of the United States national team during the four-year period leading into 1994; and second, a deal for the monthlong World Cup tournament itself.

Fricker said today's decision left the United States federation free to sign a contract with NBC covering the first part of the previous deal, national team games until 1994. (FIFA approval is not needed for this.) NBC's Plans Unclear Whether NBC would still be interested in such a contract is open to question, as is whether NBC will bid for the 1994 tournament itself. In New York, an NBC spokesman said, ''We will look at the World Cup, as well as a number of other sports properties, to see how it fits into our programming scheme now.''

The fee to have been paid by NBC was $11.5 million. That was to have been applied to the building of a broadcast center and production costs for televising all 52 games of the 24-team tournament for a world feed, as required by FIFA.

The United States federation would have profited from advertising and marketing contracts associated with the tournament, and by a $1-million-a-year fee NBC had agreed to pay in return for marketing rights (including cable telecasts) to the national team leading up to 1994.

Supporting Fricker's rosy view of the FIFA decision was Patrick Nally of USA-Soccer Properties Inc., the marketing firm that negotiated the NBC deal for the United States federation.

''I do not agree that we have now lost the most attractive part of our deal,'' Nally said. ''The most important thing for the televising of soccer in the U.S.A. was that the U.S.A. qualified for the World Cup finals in Italy next year.

''Beating Trinidad was a million times more important than what happened here today, because no one can now say that there is not a momentum gathering for soccer. The national team has qualified for Italy, the World Cup is coming in 1994. All the potential sponsors and advertisers believe that the sport now has its best chance for success in the United States.''