The World Cup in 2022 is to be held in Qatar – a decision that many believe was built on bribes and other corruption. It was, in fact, a shocking decision, when FIFA announced that the bid by Qatar was successful. Stories not only of corruption from the bid but from within the country in general, as well as the poor human rights in place within Qatar, have led many to discredit the decision taken by the FIFA. But it does beg the question of how much it actually costs to host a World Cup. Potentially, the costs involved are another reason why it only happens every four years.
Naturally, countries need to be well aware ahead of time if they’re hosting it, so that those costs can be arranged, and plans can be drawn up for how everything will operate. But the price tag changes from each World Cup to the next, and there is a likelihood that there will be a dramatic increase in this in the future once even more teams are able to compete. Then again, it is the largest single-activity sporting event in the world, with fans from every continent in the world being invested in it.
Let’s take a closer look at just how much it costs to put on a World Cup event, and furthermore, how much such an event is worth as well.
A Look Back in History
If we go back to 1994, which is when the United States of America hosted the tournament, matches were hosted in various different cities across the country. Los Angeles in California was the site of the final, which saw Brazil claim their 4th World Cup win over runners-up Italy. That final saw a total economic profit of $623 million, all of which went straight into the metropolitan economy. Y
ou could compare that to the Super Bowl of ’94, which only brought in $182 million, to see how much more appealing the World Cup is. The cities of New York, San Francisco and Boston were on the receiving end of a combined $1.45 billion.
Yet before the USA could host the World Cup, it had to develop its own national soccer league, which is where Major League Soccer (MLS) came into play in 1996. It was also necessary for new facilities to be constructed for this very purpose, and new sponsorship deals came about as a result of the MLS as well.
Three nations had put in bids to host the 1994 World Cup, with Brazil and Morocco being the other two. Altogether, the United States spent $500 million on both the preparation and organisation of the 1994 tournament – actually a much smaller figure than other countries had previously spent on the World Cup.
France would host the World Cup four years later, spending about $2.33 billion on it – a sum of money that was significantly higher than the U.S. expenditure. It had defeated Morocco in the bidding process, and it became the second time that the country played host to the tournament.
The opening match and the final match were both played within the newly built Stade de France, and France went on to win the title in the end, beating defending champions Brazil.
Stories of corruption remained high though, with Chuck Blazer (an American soccer administrator and FIFA Executive Committee member at the time) confirming that he and some others were bribed during the host selection process.
It then moved to South Korea and Japan in 2002, marking the first time ever that a split host was in control of the tournament. Thirty-two matches were played in each country, with ticket sales from the 3 million spectators raking in $1.2 billion. FIFA also promised each country a total of $110 million for the hosting, as well as all revenue from their ticket sales.
Both Japan and South Korea expanded their 20 football facilities with a total investment of $4.7 billion. Brazil would storm its way to a fifth title, after the early shock eliminations of France and Argentina. A total of $7 billion was spent on hosting the event.
Germany would take over the reins in 2006, spending €3.7 billion on the tournament. This marked the second time that the country had hosted the World Cup, and the first time as a unified country. Italy went on to claim the victory in the end, when they defeated France 5-3 in penalty shootouts.
The 2006 World Cup exists as one of the most watched events in television history, with around 26.29 billion views compiled over the course of the tournament. Four bidding nations put in for hosting rights, including South Africa, England and Morocco alongside Germany. Accusations of bribery were once again rife throughout the host bidding process.
The German professional league, the Bundesliga gained much more attention from hosting in 2006 though, and much more sponsorship of German teams became apparent. An operating budget of €430 million was set aside for the tournament, while a net profit of €56.6 million was made, which was distributed to the German Football League and the German Football Association.
Recent Football World Cups
South Africa finally managed to host the World Cup in 2010, with bidding only being open to African nations for that year. Egypt and Morocco also placed bids to host it, but South Africa won out, providing matches in 10 stadiums across the country. The opening match and the final were both played at Soccer City based in Johannesburg, with Spain defeating the Netherlands to come out on top in the end.
The total prize money on offer for the 2010 competition stood at $420 million, which was a 60% increase on the 2006 tournament. Each of the 32 entrants were granted $1 million for preparation costs.
In the end, a total of $3.6 billion was spent on the World Cup by South Africa. The event garnered a total direct economic value for GDP of around ZAR 21.3 billion (£1 billion). Unfortunately, overall, it ended up being a major financial disappointment, with construction costs for venues being an overwhelming £3 billion.
The government hoped that the increase in tourism from World Cup attendees would offset that cost, but only £323 million of the expected £570 million was generated. This came about due to only 309,000 foreign fans attending the event, rather than the expected 450,000.
Brazil took things to another level in 2014, spending $11.6 billion on the tournament. Following many years of unnecessary building work, countless protests and more upset, Brazil was actually found to be in a worth state than it ever had been. It was unfortunate then, that the World Cup costs became the most expensive to date at the time.
FIFA was expected to spend around $2 billion on staging the final, with the single biggest expense from this being the prize money equating to $576 million. Despite original estimations of $1.1 billion for the construction of stadiums, the sum actually hit $3.6 billion.
Despite anti-World Cup protests occurring in various cities in Brazil, fans forcing their way into stadiums without tickets, the disaster of the Belo Horizonte overpass collapse which left two dead and 22 injured, and the handling of head injuries during the World Cup, the 2014 tournament was hailed by both fans and pundits as one of the greatest to have ever taken place.
The last World Cup to be held took place in 2018, when Russia hosted it for the very first time. It went on the become the most expensive World Cup to date, costing more than $14.2 billion altogether. France took home their second title win, beating out Croatia in a 4-2 result.
The official budget of 678 billion roubles ($10 billion) by the Russian government for the World Cup was far less than the $15 billion spent by Brazil on the 2014 competition. In the first instance, Russia had budgeted $20 billion for it, but later slashed that amount. Half of the money was spent on transport infrastructure, with the majority of this going to the aviation infrastructure. New hotels also took a big chunk out of the budget.
Originally, FIFA budgeted a total of $791 million on both the teams and players participating, which included prize money, compensation, insurance for injuries and preparation costs. In the end, Russia was widely praised for its success in hosting the 2018 World Cup, and it ended up being the most viewed edition of the tournament to date. That being said, many believed it to be a complete distraction from the international isolation and economic difficulties that Russia had ben facing.
The 2022 Qatar World Cup
Even though the United States was a bidder for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, questions were raised over whether the bid and the economic impact on the U.S. would be as favourable as promised. A report had risen that suggested the 1994 World Cup hosted by the country had lost billions of dollars, even though a positive economic impact had been experienced. In the end, Qatar was awarded the rights to host the 2022 event, beating out not only the USA but South Korea, Japan and Australia.
That decision has been described as a “high operational risk” by many, and it has generated a large amount of criticism from the media. FIFA corruption scandals have once again been unveiled, with allegations of bribery involving executive committee members during the selection process coming to light. More and more controversies have risen up over Qatar hosting the World Cup, including its stance and decisions on, amongst other things:
- Migrant workers, slavery and deaths
- The moving of the tournament to November and December due to the climate in Qatar
- The aforementioned bidding corruption allegations
- Diplomatic ties severed with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, which all claim that Qatar supports terrorist groups.
- LGBT+ rights
Even though so much controversy has arisen with regard to the 2022 World Cup, Qatar is said to have set aside a massive $220 billion for its hosting. That stands at around 60 times the $3.5 billion that was spent by South Africa in 2010 on the World Cup. The funds in Qatar will be utilised on the construction of stadiums and additional facilities, equating to £107 billion, while £31 billion is being spent on the country’s transport infrastructure.
According to Nicola Ritter, a German legal and financial analyst, £30 billion will be spent on air-conditioned stadiums, with £48 billion on training facilities and accommodation for both players and spectators.
An additional £28 billion is to be spent on the creation of a new city, which will be known as Lusail. This is to surround the stadium which will host the opening match and the final of the 2022 World Cup. Organisers in Qatar have also requested that FIFA approve a smaller number of stadiums due to the spiralling costs of hosting the event. This would see the original number of 12 planned venues cut down to 8 or 9. The FIFA President at the time, Sepp Blatter said that Qatar’s neighbouring countries could host some of the matches. Nothing ever came of this suggestion, though.
Other issues have been raised over the decision to award the hosting rights to Qatar, including the fact that the country has never qualified for the World Cup before. Additionally, a decision has been made to supply alcohol during the tournament, which goes against law of the Muslim state.
The head of the Qatar bid delegation also said that if Israel was to qualify for the tournament, it would be able to compete even though Qatar does not recognise it as a country. As it happens, Israel has been eliminated from World Cup qualification.
While $220 billion may have been budgeted for the 2022 tournament, there is nothing to say that this figure won’t be exceeded. Plus, it cannot be said by how much, either. Furthermore, is Qatar expecting to get more money out of the tournament hosting than it has budgeted for it? Because that’s a lot of expected income for a competition that has had so much controversy brought to light.