Most soccer fans might not be aware that FIFA is staging two World Cups this summer. The larger and more visible tournament is the FIFA Women’s World Cup which will be held in Canada beginning in June. Shortly after the women’s tournament, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup will commence across the Atlantic ocean in Portugal.
FIFA adopted the tournament in 2005 and it has been held every two years since then. Beach soccer first got its start on the sands of Los Angeles, California in 1992, and in 1996 beach soccer hit the road with the Pro Beach Soccer Tour. Shortly after a European beach soccer league was born. Brazil has since dominated the tournament as the game spread across the world – the sport is now played in 75 countries and continues to grow.
The brief history of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup shows the power that FIFA has on the international soccer stage. Prior to FIFA, Beach Soccer Worldwide (BSWW) was the organizational umbrella for all international beach soccer tournaments. When BSWW entered a close partnership with FIFA, broadcast deals, international sponsors and endorsements soon followed.
Official sponsors of the 2015 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup include Adidas, Coca-Cola, Gazprom, Hyundai, and Visa, certainly no strangers to FIFA tournaments, or soccer. This shows that FIFA is not making the Beach Soccer World Cup a forgotten project. The 2009 tournament staged in Dubai had 5,000 fans at almost every match, packing their small stadium throughout the two week tournament.
To maximize exposure, BSWW streams international matches live through their agreement with LiveStream.com, where recent qualifying matches for the Beach Soccer World Cup can be replayed. International television network beIN Sports, also no stranger to soccer, broadcasts select matches as well.
The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup has only sixteen teams drawn into four group, though each region of the world is represented. However, the future of the sport might be limited in many ways. Soccer is considered “the beautiful game” because of its simplicity and accessibility to all socio-economic levels. Although some may argue that beach soccer is no different, there are still geographical and socio-economic barriers. Adequate climate and beach conditions for playing beach soccer without man-made facilities certainly limits the regions of the world where the sport can be developed. Obviously, man-made facilities designed specifically for beach soccer can and have been made around the world in those areas whose natural climate and conditions do not foster a good beach soccer environment. Russia and Switzerland for example do not have the ideal climate or even a proper beach yet both currently rank first and second in the world respectively. This does mean that nations that are not quite as well off financially will be at a disadvantage in this regard, as is the case with traditional soccer and other sports in general.
Another interesting phenomenon in the beach soccer world is the fact that it has largely dominated on the international stage, or in other words, the sport is more known for its national team competitions. Surely nations have small scale club teams that compete locally, as with traditional soccer. Futsal on the other hand is another iteration of the beautiful game that is rapidly growing around the world, but is more closely associated to clubs, such as Barcelona FC and Real Madrid, both of which have futsal clubs that compete in a domestic league. FIFA hosted the first Futsal World Cup in 2008, after it created a partnership with BSWW.
There is plenty of market space for beach soccer and futsal to coexist. Both offer different styles and attract different audiences to their respective game. All things considered, beach soccer has developed a stable and financial partnership with FIFA, and the sport shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon. Its novelty and style of play is appealing enough to resonate with fans of soccer, and it would appear that beach soccer has found its niche in the world of soccer and could potentially offer some low risk opportunities for sponsors and online streaming partners, especially in the early development stages.