Why big business can’t get enough of the World Cup, scandal and all

With us, many of these companies are quick to publicize their environmental, social and governance, or ESG, credentials and market their commitment to causes such as LGBTQ rights. Yet even at a time when a corporate misstep in Qatar can be amplified on social media, the tournament shows companies are willing to risk a backlash they bet will be forgiven (or forgotten) as long as the world is listening. the potential gain is huge. Football is the most popular sport in the world and FIFA expects five billion people to watch the tournament (think Super Bowl viewership is around 50x). FIFA expects the event to generate around $4.7 billion. The organization has apparently shaken off the scandal and is awash with money and all the power that goes with it.

Gianni Infantino, 52, a suave Swiss football executive, pledged to root out corruption and clean up FIFA’s tarnished image when he took office in 2016. He still pushes that message. Just before the tournament started, he vigorously defended the decision to give the World Cup to Qatar and said his organization had been transformed. “Money just doesn’t disappear in FIFA anymore,” he said. “The money goes where it needs to go, and it goes into the development of football.” (Mr Blatter, meanwhile, now says Qatar shouldn’t have won. “It’s too small a country,” he told a Swiss news group.)

It is estimated that Qatar has spent around $200 billion to build high-speed trains, roads and stadiums for the World Cup. That’s more than 15 times more than Russia spent to host the 2018 tournament. Qatar, which sits atop one of the world’s largest natural gas fields, earned an estimated $32.2 billion. dollars in oil and gas revenues in the first half of 2022, a war-inflated 67% increase from the same period last year, according to government data.

Qatar’s arrival on sport’s biggest stage has extended far beyond the courting of FIFA. “The World Cup changes everything – it’s great for us,” Nasser al-Khelaifi, the head of Qatar Sports Investments, told me in 2013. “It’s a tool for transformation.”

A year after winning the right to host the tournament, Qatar acquired Paris Saint-Germain, a cash-strapped and underachieving professional club in the French capital, and transformed it into a global powerhouse. With Mr al-Khelaifi as chairman, PSG bought sporting success, built a brand and now dominate the domestic league. Qatar has spent an estimated $1.45 billion signing a number of superstar players for the club, including Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Brazil’s Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, the 23-year-old French striker who signed a new contract which would earn him $250. million over the next three years.

Mr Jaidah, the Qatari business leader, does not like accusations that Doha has bought its place in world sport with the World Cup and says he believes attacks on human rights will continue. turned against him and united the country. For Westerners, he says, “it’s kind of indecent, like why do we deserve this wealth and why do we keep it? The Qataris think: “it’s our country, our wealth”.

Meanwhile, the slot machine that is FIFA is winning on and off the pitch. Infantino estimates that billions of people will tune in to the final on December 18, an unmissable marketing opportunity.

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