Australia counters claim over TV income

BERNE, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Australia has countered fears over a reduction in television rights if it stages the 2022 World Cup by saying there is huge untapped potential for growth in Asia if the tournament is held in the region.

FIFA said in its evaluation reports last week that the 2022 World Cup could lose out on television income from Europe if the tournament was staged in either Japan, South Korea or Australia.

"There is a risk of a reduction in TV income from Europe. The income from Asia/Oceania would need to be increased substantially to offset the likelihood of loss of revenue in Europe," said FIFA of the three bids.

But the Australia bid, quoting research by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and LEK, said in a statement on Tuesday that there was plenty of room for Asian television revenue to grow.

"FIFA will be able to generate broadcast revenues in excess of US$1 billion once Asia's viewership numbers reach 'rest of world' levels; this is expected to be fulfilled within 5-8 years," said the statement.

"TV rights income will rise to US$1.9 billion when Asia achieves the current viewership levels for the 'rest of world' and current broadcast rights value of Latin America," it added.

According to the bid, Asian broadcast rights for the 2010 World Cup were worth just under $400 million.

Australia has so far concentrated on promoting its bid on the basis of being a safe bet - based on successful hosting of numerous major sports events - and the country's popularity as a tourist destination, rather than on financial opportunities.

"The future growth of Asia is an important factor when analysing the impact of hosting a future World Cup in the region," said Ben Buckley, chief executive officer of the Football Federation of Australia.

"By 2022 GDP in Asia is expected to be twice as great as that in Europe or North America. Australia's main trading partners are Japan, China, Korea and India, and as such we are very much aligned with the region's future growth.

"By bringing the World Cup to Asia and the wider Australasian region, FIFA will have the opportunity to share in this growth, while the expected revenues highlighted by the research would allow FIFA to make further significant investments in the game's development across the world.

He added: "We welcome the positive evaluation of our bid as published last week by FIFA, and...we invite members of the executive committee to consider the potential that a World Cup in Australia offers in terms of football development and commercial success."

Australia is vying with Japan, South Korea, Qatar and the United States to host the 2022 World Cup. FIFA's executive committee will choose the hosts in Zurich on December 2.