MOSCOW – Roger Federer almost sounded offended when asked whether he would be concerned about Centre Court spectators paying too much attention to the World Cup final during the Wimbledon men’s singles final.
“I’m more concerned the World Cup final will have issues because the Wimbledon final is going on,” he quipped. “They’ll hear every point, ‘Wow, love-15, 15-30.’ The players are going to look up in the crowd and not understand what’s going on at Wimbledon.”
“That’s how important Wimbledon is to me,” the eight-time champion said, before he was eliminated in the quarterfinals this week, “and to us over here.”
What’s a viewer to choose this Sunday?
The Wimbledon final between the man who beat Federer, Kevin Anderson, and Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic could be only about halfway done in London when the World Cup final between France and Croatia kicks off in Moscow.
This year’s soccer final starts at 11 a.m. EDT, an unusual time: nine of the 10 World Cup finals from 1978 through 2014 started in the 2-3:30 p.m. EDT range. The exception was the 2002 finale in Japan, which began at 7 a.m. EDT.
“I’m sure the change they made was to maximize their audience worldwide, considering the time in China, Japan, Russia, all the other major countries,” said former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson, now an industry consultant.
The soccer game begins at 6 p.m. local time at Luzhniki Stadium, which is 5 p.m. in Paris and Zagreb. The shift appears aimed at soccer’s ever-increasing Asian audience, with the start time at 11 p.m. in Tokyo and midnight in Beijing. Four of FIFA’s 11 top-level partners and sponsors are Chinese companies.
“The kickoff times for the FIFA World Cup were set in co-operation with a range of stakeholders and taking into account a number of aspects such as the global broadcast market and feasibility for the fans — both in terms of attending the matches and reaching a wide TV audience,” soccer’s governing body said in an email to The Associated Press.
In the U.S., the soccer is on Fox and the tennis on ESPN. In Britain, the soccer is on both BBC1 and ITV, and the tennis on BBC1. Tennis would switch to BBC2 if the finals overlap.
“In due respect to the All England Club, the finals of Wimbledon is a blip on the radar when you’re talking about the World Cup final,” Pilson said. “It’s unfortunate, and it does hurt in the United States, where tennis has a significant audience.”
Dates for the World Cup final have ranged from June 10 to July 30, and each has been on a Sunday except for the first tournament in Uruguay in 1930, played on a Wednesday, and the 1966 tournament in England, which finished on a Saturday at Wembley.
The Wimbledon’s men’s singles final was scheduled for a Saturday through 1981. The World Cup final has twice been the same day as the men’s singles final, on July 8, 1990, in Rome, and on July 9, 2006, in Berlin. Those soccer matches started at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EDT), about two hours after the tennis ended: Stefan Edberg’s 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 win over Boris Becker in 1990, and Federer’s 6-0, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-3 win over Nadal in 2006.
The roots of this year’s conflict go back six years. The All England Club announced in July 2012 that it would increase the time between the end of the French Open and the start of Wimbledon from two weeks to three starting in 2015, allowing players extra time to adjust to the switch from clay courts to grass.
FIFA’s executive council announced World Cup kickoff times in December 2015.
Wimbledon never had any intent to alter the start time of its final, traditionally about 2:10 p.m. local (9:10 a.m. EDT). Its large-screen videoboard on Henman Hill will remain tuned to tennis.
Pressure for a shift would have increased had England beaten Croatia and advanced to its first final since winning the World Cup in 1966.
“We’re very comfortable with the long-term view that we take,” said Richard Lewis, chief executive of the All England Club. “We’re not driven by short-term decisions, whether it be TV ratings or sponsorship. Wimbledon takes a long-term view. (The World Cup) is for this year. It’s a one-year happening. And for the future, we’ll still be at 2 o’clock on the Sunday. Nothing changes, from our point of view.”
Fendrich reported from London.
More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup