England’s fiery World Cup opener against Iran, which ended 6-2, was watched by a peak of 8M viewers yesterday lunchtime. The peak was similar to that of host Qatar’s opener with Ecuador.
The game couldn’t come close to matching England’s first game at the Russia World Cup 2018, which hit a peak of 18.6M, although that game was played in the evening.
An average of 5.7M watched yesterday across a near four-hour program on BBC One, as England got their tournament underway with a hugely convincing win. Later, 5M peak watched Senegal vs the Netherlands on ITV and a hefty 11.5M peak tuned in for U.S.’s evening opener against Wales, which ended 1-1.
Ratings for big sporting matches are often deceptively low as the UK’s ratings agency Barb doesn’t take into account viewing in pubs.
England’s game was in some sense overshadowed by matters off the pitch.
The Iranian players refused to sing the national anthem in protest over the death of Mahsa Amini in custody and England captain Harry Kane ditched plans to wear a One Love armband at the last minute after football governing body FIFA said he would receive a yellow card for doing so. BBC pundit Alex Scott, who has been an outspoken critic of the Qatari regime and its human rights record, wore the armband visibly live on air.