Why would anyone want to host the World Cup?

What’s the point in hosting the World Cup?

With the recent outrage at the corruption that was rife (and well-known) at FIFA coming under fire, Sepp Blatter and a lot of his colleagues (14 to be exact) are now facing jail (admittedly while on bail or house arrest in rather more pleasant locations such as Trinidad, Italy and Switzerland), it has pulled into focus why do people even bother with a World Cup? Nations compete against each other on a world stage regularly in the Olympics, but somehow the standard of football is never like what it is in a World Cup.

FIFA claim that the core benefits of hosting are motivating factors and can be summarised with; more facilities, more sport development programmes, increased civic pride, encouraging minorities to take part in football, providing role models, enhancing partnerships with media and increased goodwill between stakeholders. The last two are what I’d bet really concern most host nations.

These million dollar agreements can be powerful in terms of revenue and is what actually got Jack Warner in trouble. While for developing nations, such as South Africa and Brazil, it can used to boost the image of the country the same can’t be said for well established, developed places like the UK or the US, who have been very publically upset at their bids getting overlooked for oil rich nations such as Russia and Qatar.

If we are to trust the opinion of Sports economist Dennis Coates, then the majority of countries hosting these world events nearly always make a loss. The most recent World Cup in Brazil is testament to the strong feeling of locals that felt the extravagance of the World Cup far exceeds the benefits, and they’re not the only ones as Max Enfreund similarly points out that it looks like a waste of resources from some in the US too. A developing nation in particular is likely to really feel the pain of spending millions on new facilities when it could have spent it on Health or Education needs.

These extremely expensive facilities will unlikely ever host anything else that will take it anywhere near full capacity. And even when the stadiums are converted for new purposes there could be a backlash.

So if the economy of the nation is not improved and any increase in sports participation is dubious, who does benefit from hosting the World Cup?

FIFA namely, but also the members of each nation’s World Cup bidding committee. However, does anyone really care about whether or not it is economical? As Soccerlens pointed out during the South African World Cup,

Talking extensively with the locals, the impression I got was that they couldn’t care less about the economic benefits: they only cared about debunking the myths about the security issues in the country and enjoying the party that had been granted to them.”

It concludes that if it only serves to raise the pride of a nation is that enough? FIFA would hope so.


Katie Mckelvie has a BA in International Marketing and writes on political and economic themes on her blog The Budget Box.

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