Tangible and intangible benefits of hosting a FIFA World Cup

Saturday, June 16, 2018

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The enthralling football on show at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is costing a lot of money.

Though news reports vary, it appears the host nation has spent in excess of US$11 billion on the tournament.

That may actually work out to be less than the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which estimates suggest may have cost as much as US$15 billion.

In the case of Russia, the Government is reported to have suggested that the World Cup will actually boost the economy by US$26 billion - US$30 billion through tourism, investment, etc. Of course, there is always the so-called legacy aspect to hosting such tournaments in the form of additional and improved stadia, improved road, and rail networks and other infrastructure.

With all of that there can be no ignoring that near-intangible element: national pride. South Africa laid claim to that after hosting the 2010 World Cup. South Africans coming together in the face of numerous societal ills to ensure their country presented the best possible face to the world.

Those watching the opening of the 2018 World Cup on Thursday will have detected the high patriotic fervour at play as Russia defeated Saudi Arabia 5-0.

Ordinarily a host nation is expected to open a World Cup tournament with a win, but in the lead-up to this World Cup, Russia was discounted by many football analysts as being a poor football team with very little chance of making it to the second round. Indeed, they entered the World Cup ranked last in the FIFA rankings among teams there.

Yet, buoyed by a massive home crowd, the Russians played inspired football causing some analysts to have second thoughts — though it must be said the Saudis played poorly.

National pride may largely explain why North African nation Morocco took on the economic might of the United States, Mexico, and Canada for the right to host the 2026 World Cup.

That the united bid from the three CONCACAF giants succeeded came as no surprise, despite considerable worldwide resentment towards the United States. From this distance the easy explanation is that the football world is convinced that the United States, Mexico and Canada are far more likely than the North Africans to deliver not just a successful World Cup in 2026, but greater profits for football's world governing body, FIFA.

The good news for Jamaica and other football nations in CONCACAF is that, even with the big three guaranteed places at the 2026 showpiece, there is likely to be at least two other places available for CONCACAF, since the number of participating countries will be upgraded from the current 32 to 48.

Crucial to the success of the North American bid was that all the proposed stadia for the tournament already exist. Perhaps most importantly, the hosts are expecting to deliver an unprecedented US$11 billion in profit for FIFA.

As we all know, money will always make the mare run.

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