FIFA Finals: The End of Qatar?
By – Yash Jain
“Messi scores a marvellous goal and leads Argentina to a victory—sounds familiar, right?
But did you hear this other headline, which was not printed in most of the international newspapers: “224 migrant workers lost their lives for every single day of fun and enjoyment that you had at FIFA?”
Maybe you didn’t.
Let’s just take some time to explore the dark side of holding international competitions such as FIFA and the Olympics and the economic implications that they hold for the host country.
Why do countries participate in the rat race for the host title?
In the last 12 years. Qatar spent 220 billion dollars to successfully conduct the FIFA World Cup, and this includes enormous expenditures on building seven new stadiums, multiple hotels, revamping the roads, and even launching the metro network. But why did Qatar sign up for such a huge expenditure of 220 billion dollars even when it was cognizant of the fact that the World Cup would not generate a revenue of more than 17 billion dollars?
The primary reason for that is the decreasing dependence on oil and gas. With renewable sources of energy gaining momentum, Qatar’s economy can no longer solely rely on oil and gas, which contribute 60% to its GDP at present. Along with this, Qatar faces security threats from its neighbours because of the ridiculously small army that it has. To make things worse, the global perception of Qatar as a backward Arab country remains unaltered.
In order to tackle these problems and put the concept of “Sports Washing” into practise, Qatar went ahead with the FIFA host title, which gave them the opportunity to showcase to the world the modern infrastructure that Qatar is home to and is also capable of building. Also, a global event such as the FIFA serves as a great medium to lure foreign investors with its marvellous infrastructure and a system of tax exemptions and subsidies acting as bait.
The downside of hosting such events?
The problem lies in the economics that go into conducting such events and the potential threat they pose to the host economy. As a matter of fact, all the revenue generated through the sale of tickets, merchandise, and sponsorship is taken away by FIFA, and as a cherry on the cake, the host country has to declare the region a tax-free zone for FIFA and all its sponsors. This takes away a major chunk of revenue that could have possibly helped generate employment opportunities and boost demand in the country.
It has been advocated for a very long time that the projects developed for events such as FIFA have a great potential to generate revenue in the upcoming years with the host country using these projects to host regular sports leagues, but history has a different story to narrate. The massive projects developed for conducting such events generally turn into white elephants; for instance, the Brazilian World Cup stadium is being used today as a bus depot. These ambitious projects do not “fail” on humanitarian grounds as well. As per the reports of Amnesty International, 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar while working on such projects since the announcement of Qatar as the host nation.
What is in store for Qatar?
Despite all the negative implications for the economy of Qatar, Qatar will still gain recognition as a major player in geopolitics by hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The World Cup will also serve as a global platform for Qatar to showcase its exponential advancements in technology and infrastructure, bringing in much-needed foreign investment.
The World Cup is also likely to boost Qatar’s relations with its Gulf neighbours. The neighbouring Gulf Nations benefited tremendously from the tourist footfalls because all the tourists coming in for the tournament could not be accommodated in the small host nation. For instance, the UAE saw increased tourism numbers as some fans decided to reside in the UAE rather than Qatar, and it has introduced a multiple-entry visa for those attending the competition. Kuwait and Jordan also received more tourists.
The way forward
One option that can be explored by international organisations to conduct such grand-scale sporting events is to develop dedicated sporting locations for conducting sporting events, be they the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup. This will reduce the excessive expenditure incurred by any developing economy on such events, given the uncertainties this expenditure carries in terms of its economic implications. This will also save the innumerable lives that are lost in the haste to complete the infrastructure projects for such events on time. If the exposure that the host country gets from conducting such events is to be thought of, then the hosting rights of such events can still be auctioned. The highest bidder gets the rights to exclusively manage the event at those locations, along with the domestic companies of that country having the opportunity to expose themselves to the global community.
It is of utmost importance that the dark side of such sporting events be brought into the mainstream media and discussed more often because conducting such events every year in a completely new location with a new set of organisers and stakeholders is not one of the most judicious uses of resources in order to promote sports. Even on humanitarian grounds, it is violence against humanity, a denial of the basic right to a safe working environment, and a refusal to acknowledge the very existence of this vicious economic trap in the name of promoting sports events.
1. FIFA World Cup 2022: How many migrant workers havedied in Qatar? (2022, December 9). The Indian Express.
2. Tribune, Q. (2022, October 10). FIFA World Cup And The Impact On Qatar Economy. Qatar Tribune.
3. Kashyaap, S. (2022, November 23). How the 2022 FIFA World Cup is impacting the economy, startups, and MSMEs of Qatar.