In terms of tourism, international trade, employment opportunities, and the possibility for fresh development, hosting the World Cup gives a country tremendous exposure. But doing so could be quite expensive. The government is spending over $229 billion on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which takes place from November 20 to December 18. This makes it the most costly World Cup ever.
That sum is nearly five times the $48.63 billion that was spent on national soccer competitions from 1990 to 2018 in total. World Cups are played once every four years.
But there can be significant downsides for the host country. Overspending on stadiums and infrastructure has left some hosts deeply in debt and with buildings that will be of little use once the FIFA World Cup is over.
Landing the bid to host the World Cup can be a decadelong process. A nation must submit a bid plan outlining both the financial justification for the international soccer governing body and how it would advance the sport’s goal of expanding its worldwide presence.
The organization scores proposals off two main categories: infrastructural and commercial. Stadiums are the most significant of nine criteria, which are ranked in order of importance. Tax exemptions are yet another crucial factor to take into account as local governments designate World Cup-related stadiums and events as tax-free zones.
The three main sources of revenue for FIFA are broadcasting, ticket sales, and marketing income, all of which go toward administration. Additionally, money is set aside for the host nations to pay for the tournament’s overall operations.
For 2022, FIFA shelled out roughly $1.7 billion to Qatar, including the $440 million in total prize money for teams. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is expected to bring in $4.7 billion in revenue.
There are both short-term and long-term economic impacts, and host nations rely on the tournament’s economic impact to generate revenue. Examples of short-term economic indicators include a rise in tourism, hotel stays, job creation, and higher-than-average spending at neighborhood restaurants and businesses.
But some host countries, which do not have the necessary infrastructure or stadiums to support the world’s largest soccer tournament, incur huge debt loads and are left with so-called “white elephant” structures after the tournament ends.
Consider Brazil: The cost of the 2014 World Cup there ballooned as the country needed to construct new roads, transit lines, stadiums and hotels. Estimates suggest that $11.6 billion was spent on that tournament.
But now, the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, which cost almost $1 billion to build, is being used as a bus depot. While this was happening, protesters criticized local and FIFA officials, claiming that money would be better used to build social services for the underprivileged.
Qatar, on the other hand, has spent well over a decade preparing for the 2022 tournament, with as much as $500 million spent per week to speed up production.
However, being on the world stage has also brought to light allegations of corruption, putting into question the FIFA selection process. In 2015, 41 FIFA officials were indicted on bribery, racketeering, wire fraud, and money-laundering corruption charges.
What’s more, in 2016, Amnesty International first reported numerous human rights violations stemming from the pressure the country was under to meet the 2022 deadline. Some 1.7 million migrant workers make up 90% of the total workforce in Qatar, and virtually all of them were underpaid and subjected to below-par living and working conditions.
Nevertheless, hosting the FIFA World Cup is viewed as an honor as soccer is the world’s most popular sport, with over 5 billion fans. That honor goes to the U.S., Canada and Mexico which combined will host the next World Cup in 2026. The United States, which hosted the 1994 World Cup, is viewed as the most successful of the tournaments, drawing over 3.5 million fans.
Admittedly, it can be a bad idea for some countries to host these games, and the negative FIFA headlines have soured some against the event. But history suggests that fans will continue to tune in with hopes and aspirations of their country winning the cherished World Cup.
Watch the video above to learn why hosting the FIFA World Cup can be a bad idea for some countries.