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WIESBADEN, Germany — American Forces Network viewers might not be able to enjoy one of the world’s biggest sporting events from the comfort of their living room. AFN officials say they still have not been able to secure broadcast rights to the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament, which kicks off June 11 in South Africa.

The AFN Broadcast Center is usually able to negotiate the rights to TV shows from the U.S. entertainment industry, but things work differently for the FIFA World Cup.

“It’s a real challenge to get rights for the World Cup, because we have to negotiate with the rights holders of every country where AFN is seen, and some rights holders are reluctant to give it up,” said Gene Fredrickson, affiliate relations specialist with AFN’s broadcast center in California.

According to FIFA, which is soccer’s international governing body, more than 715 million people watched the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France. By comparison, last year’s Super Bowl was viewed by about 106 million people.

“No matter where you’re from, everybody watches and everything stops,” said Venezuela native Sgt. Julio Salazar, a medic with the 557th Medical Company in Wiesbaden.

In 2006, News Corp., which is run by Rupert Murdoch, brokered a deal that allowed AFN to show some World Cup matches.

Fredrickson said it is unclear whether they will have the same luck this time around.

“We work on this year’s (tournament) in advance, but there’s so many broadcast entities involved…it’s a tough nut,” he said.

Stars and Stripes was unable to get comment from News Corp. by deadline.

Questions from viewers asking whether they could watch the World Cup on AFN started rolling into the network last September and haven’t stopped since, according to Fredrickson.

“I think it’s kind of crappy,” said Spc. Ronnie Wilder with the 167th Medical Detachment in Grafenwöhr, Germany, who watched parts of the 2006 World Cup on AFN.

Wilder said he thinks the word needs to be spread that it might not be available this year.

“A lot of people will be tuning into AFN to watch it and then it’s not on,” Wilder said.

Salazar said he will pay to watch the World Cup somewhere if it is not shown on AFN, but pointed out that troops downrange can’t exactly go downtown to watch the matches.

“If AFN is not showing it, that is their only way of watching it…that’s one of the biggest things,” Salazar said.

pattonm@estripes.osd.mil

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