At what point does controversy off the pitch ruin the game being played on it? For many Germans, it looks like the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has crossed the line. World Cup fever just isn’t taking hold in Germany, where TV ratings for the tournament have plummeted in comparison to the last edition. Fan and ultra groups in the country have called for a full boycott of proceedings, and several bars have refused to screen games.
The opening game between Qatar and Ecuador saw a 34% decline in overall viewership, with a significant 50% decline in the 14-49 age group. USA vs Wales, the most watched game of the second day of the World Cup, averaged around 4.35m viewers. In comparison, the weakest viewership numbers for an evening game at the 2018 World Cup was almost 8m (via @ftamsut).
It’s not just neutral fixtures feeling the brunt of indifference — Germany’s own games have seen a steep decline in viewers. The opener vs Japan, which the Germans lost 2-1, wasn’t even watched by 10 million people.
The second game vs Spain was the first World Cup game this year to break 10 million views in Germany (via DW Sports). However, it still represents a ~38% decline in numbers from the 2018 edition of the tournament, where Germany’s second group stage game vs Sweden was watched by 27.48m people.
It’s clear that the German public shows a marked lack of interest in this year’s edition of the World Cup compared to previous ones. While some may point to the lackluster performances of the national team at the tournament so far, it doesn’t explain the overall viewership decline in games not involving Germany, nor does it explain why the 2018 tournament’s numbers were so much higher.
The fact is, people don’t want to watch this World Cup. It has nothing to do with the football. Journalists, activists, and ultra groups in Germany made a concerted effort to educate the public about the numerous human rights abuses perpetrated by Qatar, and this is the natural outcome.
Stories about migrant worker deaths, slave labor used in the construction of stadiums, and Qatar’s treatment of women and LGBTQ people have all soured perception of the tournament among the football-loving Germans, especially in younger age groups. While it’s not exactly a boycott (millions of viewers continue tuning in every week), you can imagine that a significant number of people just decided to not watch anymore.
But if they’re watching anyway, is there any point? Yes. Losing this many viewers will hurt advertisers, who will make their feelings known to broadcasters and FIFA. This can directly hurt FIFA’s bottom line, making it arguably a more effective form of protest than armbands and gestures.
Of course, even if you’re not watching the World Cup, you can still keep up to date on it. Why not check out the latest episode of our podcast? We have an in-depth discussion about Germany’s draw with Spain, and Bayern Munich at the World Cup overall. Listen to it below or on Spotify.
As always, we appreciate all the support!