Where did the boycott of the 2022 World Cup go?

Where did the boycott of the 2022 World Cup go?

This was one of the big questions before the start of the World Cup: were the calls for a boycott of the competition going to be followed en masse in France? A quick look at the audiences suggests otherwise, though this data should be viewed with a grain of salt.


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Aurelien is 25 years old. This student may be passionate about soccer, but he still hasn’t seen a glimpse of the World Cup currently being played in Qatar. “I decided to boycott because I couldn’t have seen the players on the pitch without seeing the thousands of workers who died building the stadiums.” , confess. Aurélien is, therefore, one of the 23% of French football fans who would have chosen not to watch the competition, according to a BVA survey commissioned by Orange and RTL and published two days before the opening of the tournament. To avoid coming face to face with a match broadcast, he does not hesitate to take radical precautions. “It usually happens that I refuse to go see friends in a bar, if there is a screen in that bar that broadcasts the matchessays the young man. Of course it makes people laugh, but they are good with their principles, and I with mine. Too bad if I don’t see them, that’s right. » Like Aurélien, did many of them follow the calls to boycott the “World Cup of Shame”? The group stage is over, it’s time to take stock.

“The French know how to make concessions and understand that following the competition does not mean endorsing what has happened there since the award in 2010.” Julien Millereux, sporting director of TF1

Status quo in France, the fall in Germany

On Tuesday, November 22, TF1 gathered 12.53 million viewers against France-Australia, achieving its best audience of the calendar year. Even more interesting, this figure is more or less the same as the one recorded four years earlier, in Russia, when the Deschamps gang launched their World Cup against the same rival (12.59 million fans). “We see that the Blues continues to have a very strong power of attraction” , underlines Julien Millereux, sports director of TF1. This French status quo from one competition to another contrasts with the data recorded on the other side of the Rhine, where the desire to boycott the great mass of world football was loudly proclaimed in society. Only 9.23 million Germans remained after the opening defeat for Hansi Flick’s men against Japan (1-2). An audience that is not far from catastrophic in a country that usually gathers more than 20 million fans behind its mannschaft. And if the following games were more followed, they all fell short of the popular interest generated by the last final of the Women’s Euro Cup, followed by 17.89 million people. While the ZDF has reason to look grim, the front page, for its part, may legitimately have a smile. “When we bring together more than 11.6 million French people and more than 63% audience share for the France-Denmark match on Saturday at 5:00 p.m., and more than 7 million viewers for other games outside the national team French, we can only rejoice in the attraction of competition » welcomes Julien Millereux.

According to the figures revealed match after match by Médiamétrie, the channels can breathe: the feared boycott did not take place. “We are not surprisedcontinues the sports director of TF1. The World Cup is a very unifying event on television, therefore the French follow this competition en masse, and in particular their national team. They know how to make sense of things and understand that following the competition does not mean condoning what has happened there since the awards ceremony in 2010”. And rights holders aren’t the only ones benefiting from this popular success. “The World Cup still attracts a lot” points out Jérôme Saporito, director of the L’Équipe channel, whose programming is largely dedicated to the tournament. “Obviously we follow the debates in society, but a World Cup is still a World Cup.he continues. Our system allows us to talk both about sport and other topics related to this competition, if necessary. » In sports web media too, audiences are skyrocketing. “If there is a boycott, it does not appear heresays Maxime Dupuis, deputy editor of Eurosport.fr. Generally, during a World Cup, there are other big events that drain the audience, like Wimbledon and the Tour de France. There we continue to make great numbers in general, while there is no more tennis, no more cycling, white sports are barely resuming… Readers’ appetite around the France team is monstrous. As for the commented concerts, they are also very followed. »

“If we didn’t broadcast the games, it would be economic suicide. » a parisian bartender

Calm advertisers, figures to put into perspective

In addition to delighting media executives covering the competition, these large audiences send a positive signal to advertisers. Potentially cooled by the idea of ​​associating their brand image with an event that arouses so much controversy, some of them preferred to withdraw their marbles. But the absence of a real boycott is right “reassure advertisers” says Thierry Moreau, media specialist. “Advertisers are satisfied with the performance delivered” promises Julien Millereux, while Jérôme Saporito recalls that “The key factor, in terms of ad revenue or hype, will always be the direction of the Blues. » When Didier Deschamps’ men are on the pitch, the bars keep filling up. “I don’t really see any change compared to the Eurocup or the previous World Cup” admits Nathan, bartender at 11me Paris district. “If we did not broadcast the matches it would be economic suicideHe even advances one of his colleagues, based in 18me city. We are always full when France plays. The support looks like the euro to me. »

At first glance, the figures revealed leave no room for ambiguity. However, dissecting them allows us to have a slightly different perception of the situation. “You have to enter into the fine analysis of the audienceswarns Thierry Moreau. 12.5 million viewers for France-Australia may sound like a lot, but in absolute terms, it’s not that great. It is even the lowest score for the Blues in a World Cup opener since 2002. (10 million people ahead of France-Senegal, editor’s note). » In terms of audience share (the proportion of viewers who follow the game out of the entire population watching television), this match against the football players it was also below 50% (48.1%), which is extremely rare when the Tricolores perform in a major competition. This percentage has certainly exceeded 60% compared to Denmark and Tunisia, but it must be put into perspective, because the two games began in the afternoon, a time when the television offer is less competitive than at night. The particular programming of this Mondial, at a time of year more conducive to spending the evenings with the remote in hand than around a barbecue or a drink on the terrace, is obviously another factor that distorts the comparison with previous editions. “November-December and February-March are the two most prosperous periods in terms of TV consumption” specifies Thierry Moreau.

“The Frenchman sticks out his chest in the polls, but, in fact, he continues to watch the games. » Thierry Moreau, media specialist

A “tremendous youth boycott”, not a “mass boycott”

Former editorial director of Television 7 Days also draws attention to an important change: since March 2020, Médiamétrie includes “away from home” audiences in its calculations. From now on, those who watch the games on their smartphones on public transport or follow them in bars are therefore part of the equation. “It is a very important element. Without that, the numbers recorded would have been even lower.” believes Thierry Moreau, who also points out that the 25-49 crowd was far less present against Australia than in the past. “It means that there is a small tendency to boycott among young people, who are clearly more sensitive to the arguments put forward than the older ones” , decrypt. Before predicting: “The further France advances in the competition, the less boycott there will be and the more people will be in front of the television. The Frenchman puffs out his chest at the polls, but, in fact, he continues to watch the games. » This observation applies perfectly to Paul, who, however, had decided to boycott the event. “I lasted ten days, but I broke down at a friend’s house. I love football too much, and I remembered that I was still too good.” he releases the 24-year-old.

“The problem is that this boycott was proposed by anyone, anytime, anywhere. » Marc Drillech, author of two books on the boycott

Ultimately there is “a boycott tremor among the youth, but not a mass boycott” summarizes Thierry Moreau. After all, could it be otherwise? Absolutely not, according to Marc Drillech, author of two books dedicated to the boycott (the boycott The nightmare of business and politics.Les Presses du Management, 2001 and the boycott History, news, perspectivesFyp editions, 2011). “At the time of the World Cup in Argentina there were only one or two television channels, there were no free radio stations or social networks, so it was very difficult to boycott, he rewinds. In 2022, the context is much more favourable. The problem is that this boycott was proposed anyway, by anyone, anytime, anywhere. It couldn’t work. » For the movement to have a chance to gain a foothold, it would already have to have a strong incarnation. “Who is the personality that has risen up to lead this fight?asks the sociologist. Certainly Eric Cantona stood up. He has influence, but he was alone, isolated. If two years ago 150 footballers had signed a petition calling for a boycott and claiming that the French team should not go to Qatar, it would not have been the same. Very few sports boycotts have been successful, but the one of the Berlin Olympics, for example, started in 1932 or 1933, with real ground-breaking work on the part of the organisations. » Without an identified figure, without anticipation, without a clear dynamic to follow: all the reasons for failure have been found. “It was more of a grievance movement than a true desire for a boycott. And from the first game, almost everyone put the boycott in their pocket and turned on the TV. , pushes Marc Drillech. If some are intent on inciting a mass boycott of the 2026 World Cup, they now know what mistakes not to make.

group stage class council

By Baptiste Brenot and Raphaël Brosse
All comments collected by BB and RB, with Pierre Maturana.

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