Can Qatar really make any money out of 2022?

Anil Bhoyrul argues that FIFA could be the only winner when the World Cup comes to the Middle East

It wasn’t quite a JFK moment, but pretty big anyway. Do you remember exactly what you were doing when FIFA announced that Qatar had won the rights to stage the 2022 World Cup?

I remember exactly where I was. Sitting in front of this computer, writing the headline “Qatar fails in World Cup bid.” The story had been written. All I had to do was press “send”, once FIFA’s dreadful leader Sepp Blatter announced the decision. We all pretty much knew 2022 would go to either Australia or the US.

But never mind that. Against all odds and expectations (including those in Qatar itself), Qatar won the 2022 World Cup rights. Ever since, there has been no shortage of conspiracy theories and sour grapes over exactly how the tiny Gulf state got to win the biggest prize in sport. Who paid who, and how much, is the general thrust of the many arguments.

Amidst the many theories, which will no doubt carry on for the next nine years, one not too insignificant point appears to have been overlooked. How much is this all going to cost? And is it going to end up an economic success?

Now would be a good time to start that debate, and the early signs are not encouraging. Depending who you believe, the cost of hosting the 2022 event will reach $130bn. Even the most conservative estimate, by Bank of America Merrill Lynch last week, puts the figure at $95bn. Around $4bn of that is on stadiums, but the figure rockets once you add in all the new facilities including upgrading the airport, building a new metro and masses of hotels in the middle of the desert. Qatar itself has told FIFA it will spend $100bn, which is the equivalent of 87 percent of its GDP.

Of course, no country in the history of World Cups has managed to stage the event without massively overrunning on costs. Brazil is now looking at spending $13.28bn on the 2014 World Cup, a 15 percent rise. Russia, which is hosting the 2018 World Cup, now estimates it will cost $40bn, double the estimate. What about South Africa? It spent close to $5bn, nearly four times what it first estimated.

There are two big warning signs here: the first is that Qatar’s tournament is already going to be the most expensive ever staged, largely because it is building almost everything from scratch. So already the risk is far higher. More worryingly, all the studies done of past events make grim reading. In 1994, the US predicted it would make a profit of $4bn. It ended up losing $9bn. South Africa lost money, though it’s not clear how much, while Germany in 2006 (where very little new investment was required on building stadiums or hotels) just about broke even.

How is Qatar going to recoup its $100bn? There are many flowery arguments about building a legacy, but that doesn’t translate into hard cash. Sure there will be a temporary construction boom and thousands of new jobs created. But as everyone knows, this comes to an end the day the World Cup ends. Yes there will be a retail boom, but again, it’s worth noting that in South Africa the total retail benefit was just 10 percent of what it expected.

The only people guaranteed to make money out of Qatar 2022 are Sepp Blatter and his gang, who will sell the media rights to the tournament for billions of dollars long before the first ball is kicked. FIFA controls its World Cups in a similar way that Bernie Ecclestone runs F1. Nobody in a 2km radius of any stadium can sell anything, unless the money goes to FIFA. The many thousands of private entrepreneurs looking forward to an oasis of opportunities had better think again.

So what is the solution? On current projections, I just don’t see how Qatar (or any World Cup host) can make a profit. The only way is to completely renegotiate the way all World Cup commercial, retail and broadcast rights are distributed, with host nations taking the lion’s share.

Otherwise, once again, the only winner will be FIFA.

Anil Bhoyrul is the Editorial Director of Arabian Business.

Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

NOTE: Comments posted on may be printed in the magazine Arabian Business

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Berash

Anil Bhoyrul,

You have made a very good report.

In addition, this is the most wasteful spending of money and terrestrial resource that is shared by all people of the earth.

Some argue that it is a human right to decide how to use his/her money without challenge from anyone else. Surely, it is right. However, this is not about a king giving his queen or son money, treasures, properties or diamonds worth billions of dollars. This is about the wasteful of all the infrastructures which are polluting indirectly. Remember that the infrastructures (rails, airport, hotels, stadia, utilities, etc) are for roughly 3 million visitors to a population of only 2 millions and used just for one month. Giving the seats to 3rd world, how small is the proportion comparing to all the infrastructures. This about waste mutual terrestrial resources and pollution.

No matter how you see it, this World Cup will not be successful for the soccer and the fans.

Posted by: douche bag

Listen buddy, 'mr. economic sense' as long as the world is saying the word Qatar, the event was a success.. So you're proud of your counting skills to point out profits or losses, good for you...

Posted by: Saleem

More important costs relate to Cultural incompatibility of the event with the Qatari culture. I believe the Qatari nationals will decide if they will accept drunken Brit hooligans on their streets.

Posted by: Mohammed Yamin

Qatar won't make profit by hosting 2022 World Cup like those who have hosted a sporting event before. Hosting the world cup is a PR stunt for Qatar, that's all they're aiming for. Qatar wanted to host a world cup to promote, showcase its country and to become a well-known country because they used to lack of exposure and recognition. They're making money by buying hotels, retails, in Europe and in the US and acquiring stakes

Posted by: Quantum Mechanics

For Qatar, it's certainly for glory, not profits.

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Qatari cycling event foreshadows 2022 World Cup weather concerns

Qatari cycling event foreshadows 2022 World Cup weather concerns

Competitors at a world cycling competition in Qatar may have...

Bahraini overtures to Kenya-born runners attract medals, controversy

Bahraini overtures to Kenya-born runners attract medals, controversy

Oil-rich Bahrain has been luring poor but talented young runners...

Meddling for medals: the politics of sport in the Gulf

Meddling for medals: the politics of sport in the Gulf

Kuwait’s recent re-suspension from the International Olympic...

Most Discussed