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A Case Study of 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Executive Masters in Leadership – 4 International Business Management Case Study

World Cup 2022 in Qatar

The first purpose of this case is to understand events that received international newsworthy attention and stimulated controversy during the build-up to and delivery of the World Cup 2022 in Qatar. A second objective is to articulate the issues underlying the controversies. The case offers objective information and subjective opinions about the events using a range of sources. The presentation is intended to be balanced and unbiased but not comprehensive. The student’s task is to grasp both sides of the issue and suggest how to take action. No judgments need to be made. 

Executives who are engaged in global business will frequently confront differences ranging from daily business practices to culturally or religiously based values and beliefs. To be able to understand, analyze, and respect differences – and to take proper courses of action – is a skill to be practised in this case.

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A Case Study of 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

The choice of Qatar was a mistake, and I take responsibility because I was the FIFA president at the time. Qatar is a small country. Football and World Cups are for big countries.

-Sepp Blatter, past president of FIFA. Eurosport, November 9, 2022

This year’s World Cup in Qatar has been “the best ever.” … This World Cup has shown unique, cohesive power. … It has a “transformative legacy.”

-Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA. Al Jazeerah, December 16, 2022

To most of the world, it was a surprise. On December 2nd 2010, in Zurich, Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA (International Federation of Association Football), announced the host country for the World Cup in 2022: Qatar.

The host country was a surprise at the time because it is a small country without a football history. No World Cup had ever been played in an Arab country or located in the Middle East. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, son of the former Emir of Qatar, was the chairman of the bid committee and accepted the award. The countries that lost their bids in the final round were the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Australia.

It wouldn’t be the first time that Qatar had hosted international sporting events, including the 2019 IAAF World Athletic Championships, 2016 Road Cycling Championship, 2015 World Men/s Handball Championship, 2014 World Swimming Championship, 2011 Arab Games, 2011 AFC Cup, and the 2006 Asian Games. It would be by far the biggest.

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In the last decade, Qatar has established a ‘state brand’ on the geopolitical stage. It has done so through innovative diplomacy and trade policies. The diversity of political causes and initiatives that Qatar supports often confounds observers. Yet, Qatar is clearly playing a larger and larger role in the Middle East and beyond. The sponsorship and staging of the FIFA World Cup 2022 appears to be one example of Qatar strengthening its state brand. The global nature of the World Cup provided a venue for Qatar to communicate its brand.

Over the 12 years from the announcement of the first game in Doha, several events commanded space in the news media. They focused international attention on the choice of Qatar as the host country for World Cup 2022. Issues were raised about the environmental impact of massive new construction for matches to be played in very high temperatures, corruption in the award process, the treatment of migrant workers, the clash of cultures about sexual preference and alcoholic beverages, and the economics generally of staging major international sporting events of this type.

The events became controversial and reached a peak just as the games were underway, prompting an observation about “The massive hypocrisy of the West’s World Cup ‘concerns,” published as a column by Al Jazeerah (November 28, 2022). The column pointed out mass shootings in elementary schools and gay nightclubs in the US and the history of enslaving black people. It pointed out Europe’s xenophobic anti-immigration policies and thousands of refugee deaths. The West’s critiques of Qatar “command zero moral traction.” The British newspaper, The Economist, joined the reaction, saying the Western criticism of the award of the World Cup to Qatar “smacks of blind prejudice.” (November 17 2022). Hosting the World Cup drew the eyes and scrutiny of the world to the small nation-state.

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Weather and Energy

Two concerns were raised about the environmental impact of a World Cup in Qatar. Central to the initial surprise at the announcement was the weather. The average high temperature in Doha in July-August is 41° Celsius (107° Fahrenheit). How could the game be played in outdoor stadiums in the extremely hot summer weather?

Seven new stadiums were to be constructed, and the existing Al Khalifa stadium re-fitted. Qatari officials planned to utilize new technologies that govern air flows by placing vents and nozzles to create a micro-climate bubble in each purpose-built stadium.

“According to the Qatari organizers, air conditioning will account for only 20% of the stadiums’ annual electricity consumption … The ‘district cooling’ concept, adopted on a large scale in Doha's West Bay and The Pearl neighbourhoods, uses between 40% and 80% less electricity than individual units. “A cooling network is generally more efficient and avoids aggravating the problem by rejecting heat outside," said Morgane Colombert, doctor of urban engineering at the Lab'Urba of Gustave-Eiffel University. …

While the Qatari authorities have not specified the cost of these systems, Mr Abdul Ghani, the University of Doha engineer, admitted to The Guardian in 2019 that they doubled or tripled the construction budget. "The air-conditioned stadium is certainly a beautiful technical and technological object. It is interesting to experiment with, but the energy used for air-conditioning in these countries is already phenomenal, and we [should] fear the systematization of these processes," said Ms. Colombert.

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“World Cup 2022: The true cost of Qatar's air-conditioned stadiums.” Le Monde, November 18, 2022

In September 2015, the dates for the tournament were moved to November-December, away from the hottest months of June and July. The advanced air cooling system was deployed and used but in temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius.

The schedule change caused European football schedules to be changed since their November-December league games would also have to be moved to other dates. Prior World Cups held in the summer occupied the out-of-season time for European clubs.


Massive investments in infrastructure would be required during the 12-year preparation period between the award and the delivery of the World Cup. Seven new stadiums, roads, the metro rail public transportation, port and airport expansion, Lusail city for future population growth, dedicated tourism infrastructure, hotels, and public utility capacity (telecommunications, water, electricity) all had to be expanded.

Estimates of the capital investment cost vary widely, but a frequently cited figure is a bit more than $200 billion (some sources say $300 billion), amounting to 2% or more of Qatar’s GDP.

Some of the infrastructure build-up would be important for the future growth and development of the country long after the World Cup. According to a FIFA news report, “The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy worked with a range of stakeholders to accelerate a host of transport projects ahead of the World Cup, including the Doha Metro, expressways, electric buses and tram systems.”

The total cost of the infrastructure investment should not be charged to the World Cup because it would be utilized for the public good for many years after the event ended.

The main question is about the future use of the seven new stadiums. (See the section below on Net Benefit to Qatar). 

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The controversy about corruption centred on charges that key decision-makers in the award process were paid large sums of money to influence their vote in the selection proceedings. From 2014 to 2022, nine different allegations were made against FIFA executives, Qatari officials, football officials from other countries, and others involved in the selection process. Four investigations or other legal proceedings were held: two by FIFA itself, one by a Swiss court, and one by a Qatari court. The FIFA investigations reported no wrongdoing but were challenged. Of the two legal cases, one resulted in a conviction, and one was a not guilty verdict. A timeline of events was reported by Al Jazeera (October 20, 2022.)

May 5, 2011. Then FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, suspended over a corruption investigation, leaked an email from FIFA’s general secretary claiming Qatar “bought” the rights to host the World Cup.

March 17, 2014, British newspaper The Telegraph reports an investigation that says Warner was paid nearly $2m from a firm linked to Qatar’s campaign to obtain rights to host the World Cup. Warner is later banned for life from football activity.

May 10, 2011. A British parliamentary inquiry into why England did not get the 2018 World Cup was told by MP Damian Collins there was evidence … that Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, president of the African Football Association, and Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast were paid by Qatar. Whistleblower Phaedra al-Majid, who was part of Qatar’s World Cup bid, claims Qatar paid $1.5m to Hayatou, Anouma, and Nigeria’s suspended Amos Adamu. All three denied the allegations. Al-Majid later said that she had fabricated her claims but then said that she was coerced into withdrawing her allegations.

July 17, 2012. FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced that former US attorney Michael Garcia and German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert had joined the organisation to investigate allegations of wrongdoing.

September 5, 2014. After their year-long probe, FIFA received three reports from ethics investigator Garcia and his team. Eckert refused to publish that report. Garcia called on FIFA to make his report public. 

Eckert then released a 42-page summary, clearing Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing and allowing both countries to stage the tournaments. Garcia declared the report “materially incomplete and erroneous”.

November 20, 2014. FIFA says it will further review the awarding of hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups by studying a US prosecutor’s 430-page report into allegations of widespread corruption.

May 27, 2015. The Attorney General of Switzerland opens criminal proceedings against persons suspected of criminal mismanagement and money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Swiss authorities arrest seven leading FIFA officials in Zurich on racketeering and bribery charges brought by the US.

June 27, 2017. FIFA released the full report of an investigation it conducted into allegations of corruption over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The dossier provided a picture of a flawless voting process and no hard evidence that the committees used bribes to secure their rights.

February 10, 2019. The Guardian reports that Sir Lynton Crosby, a UK-based Australian political strategist, was offered to $6.4m to work on a campaign to get the 2022 World Cup awarded to another country.

June 18, 2019. French police detain for questioning former UEFA chief Michel Platini in relation to the awarding of the 2022 World Cup. He was released a day later.

June 8, 2022. Former FIFA president Blatter and former UEFA chief Platini are both cleared of corruption charges by a Swiss court.

April 6, 2020. The US Department of Justice says that representatives working for Russia and Qatar had bribed FIFA officials to secure the hosting rights for the global football tournament. 

December 16, 2021. The court of appeals in Qatar upheld a guilty verdict handed out to a former 2022 FIFA World Cup official for bribery and misuse of funds but reduced his prison sentence from five to three years. Abdullah Ibhais, a former media manager at the Supreme Committee, was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to five years in April 2021.

A major charge of corruption was made while the World Cup games were underway. Four members of the European Parliament were charged with “money laundering, corruption and participating in a criminal organization” by Belgian prosecutors. The allegation was that the four officials were given sizable gifts from Qatari sources to influence the European Parliament favourably to Qatar. One of the officials charged was an MEP from Greece; she was arrested in Brussels in possession of €600,000 in cash. Altogether, about €1,500,000 was recovered. The award of the World Cup 2022 to Qatar was not specifically mentioned. Later reports mentioned migrant workers as the focus. A Qatari official responded, “Any association of the Qatari government with the reported claims is baseless and gravely misinformed.”


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Migrant Labor

Once construction activity got underway to prepare for the World Cup 2022, news reports described the workforce in Qatar. The population of Qatar is 2,937,800 (estimate for 2022). Sizable numbers of workers, about 89% of the total population, or 2,615,000 people, come from other countries, especially India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. These workers come to Qatar usually because they can earn more income than is possible for them in their home country. They send money home to help support their families (81% do so, according to an ILO survey).

The migrant workforce was managed according to the ‘kafala’ system, which refers to the sponsorship relationship of the employer to the migrant worker. This system, which was also used in other Gulf region countries, was a source of complaint by non-government organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Under the kafala system, migrant labour could not change employers without their sponsoring employer’s consent and could not leave Qatar without their employer’s consent. Employers had power over the migrant employee. There were no trade unions.

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Articles in the Western popular press and on NGO websites claimed poor treatment of migrant workers. For example, “thousands of Nepalese workers in Qatar face exploitation and abuses that amount “to modern-day slavery” (Guardian, September 25, 2013), “Qatar’s construction sector rife is with abuse, with workers employed on multimillion-dollar projects suffering serious exploitation” (CNN, November 18, 2013).

Headlines in a mass-circulation Western magazine declared, “A World Cup Built on Modern Slavery: Stadium Workers Blow the Whistle on Qatar’s Coverup of Migrant Deaths and Suffering. They braved extreme heat to feed their families and make billions for an oppressive government. Construction workers reveal how, when FIFA inspectors arrived, they were hidden away.” -Rolling Stone, November 9, 2022

International non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch contained stories about migrant labour used to build the infrastructure for the World Cup 2022. NGOs have their own missions to fulfil and, in that sense, are partisans. Amnesty International is another one of these NGOs; it had seven reports about labour issues in Qatar. Here is an extract from one of them:

“When relatively young and healthy men die suddenly after working long hours in extreme heat, it raises serious questions about the safety of working conditions in Qatar. In failing to investigate the underlying causes of migrant workers’ deaths, the Qatari authorities are ignoring warning signs which could, if addressed, save lives. This is a violation of the right to life. -August 26, 2021

A Qatari view provides a different perspective. The labour controversy was a systematic human rights campaign by the Western media that was “…ideological and lacking balance. Qataris, especially the young and educated, felt the campaign was aggressive and confrontational, and that it emphasized negative points without context. … it was duplicitous and self-serving. … Yet criticism during the preparation period would be seen as hostile and unpatriotic … the nation must stay united.”

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In 2016, FIFA’s new president, Gianni Infantino, set up an independent committee to monitor conditions for labourers working at Qatar’s World Cup 2022 stadiums.

In 2013, two international labour unions complained to the International Labor Organization (ILO) about the rights of migrant workers in Qatar. The complaint said

“From the moment migrant workers begin the process of seeking work in Qatar, they are drawn into a highly exploitative system that facilitates the exaction of forced labour by their employers. This includes practices such as contract substitution, recruitment fees (for which many take out large, high interest loans) and passport confiscation. The GoQ fails to maintain a legal framework sufficient to protect the rights of migrant workers consistent with international law and to enforce the legal protections that currently do exist. Of particular concern, the sponsorship law, among the most restrictive in the Gulf region, facilitates the exaction of forced labour by, among other things, making it very difficult for a migrant worker to leave an abusive employer.”


The ILO found some of the allegations credible, and the Qatari government began to reform the system. The ILO removed the complaint, and in 2017, an ongoing program of change in the use of migrant workers was agreed upon. 

In 2019, Qatar abolished the kafala system. Since 2020, migrant workers can apply to change jobs without their employer’s agreement, and many have, but less than 10% of the migrant workforce. 

Construction workers are the most numerous, but domestic workers and others are included. A minimum wage law is in effect, and it has raised the wages of 13% of the workforce. Heat stress is addressed when work outside is prohibited due to high temperatures. An ILO survey reported that 86% of migrant workers said their lives were better after kafala was abolished. What is not included is unscrupulous recruiting practices by firms in the migrant workers’ host countries.

According to the ILO, the legislated reforms to the kafala system are the most advanced in the Gulf region. Some years ago, the ILO said, “Qatar was probably furthest behind other countries in the region. The Qataris say they want their reforms to be a legacy.”

In October 2019, the ILO praised the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy for organising the World Cup and, in particular, for dealing with heat stress among construction workers by mitigating conditions through frequent breaks as well as access to shade and water. (Al Jazeerah, October 11, 2019)

Mr. Al Marri also notes that Qatar did institute substantial legislative reforms after being announced as the host of the tournament and that “hosting of the World Cup fostered increased local awareness regarding the state’s commitment to enacting legislation that respects human rights and prevents violations.”

Qatar changed a lot in the past 12 years and, culturally speaking, this has made a huge impact,” 30-year-old Qatari football fan Ali Adnan Abel told CNN. “We have seen more diversity, making Qataris realize it’s time to let the shields down.

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What is practised may diverge from what is legislated. Without surprise, sources such as Al Jazeerah and Human Rights Watch have reported violations of workers' rights to wages, snags in the ending of the ‘no-objection certificates,’ and harassment and continuing exploitation by some sponsors.

Clash of Cultures

Qatar is an ethnically Arab country. Its national culture differs from many Western national cultures. Qatar’s history is long, but its modern, rich country status is recent. Its citizens predominantly follow the Islamic religion and are observant. Most of the football powers through time – Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain – are predominantly Western Christian countries. Arab national cultures tend to be more conservative, less individualistic, and more indirect in interpersonal relationships than Westerners. ‘Inshallah’ belies a less controlling nature. Generalizations like these can’t apply per se to any individual, so they are dangerous, but if taken tentatively, they can help understand events.

Status of LGBTQ+ People

Sexual activity between men is illegal in Qatar and also between women. It is codified and based on interpretations of Sharia law.

-Penal Code 2004, Article 285 criminalises sexual intercourse ‘without compulsion, duress or ruse’ between males with a penalty of up to seven years’ imprisonment. Death by stoning is possible.

-Penal Code 2004, Article 296 criminalises ‘leading, instigating or seducing a male in any way to commit sodomy’ … with a penalty between one and three years imprisonment. 

However, enforcement of the law is infrequent. Human Rights Watch reports only a few gay men, lesbian women, and transgender people were actually arrested and detained in 2019-2022. What the law reads and how it is used appear to be different. 

Nevertheless, the issue of LGBTQ+ rights surged in the lead-up to the World Cup. A statement by an authoritative Qatari official in November received extensive news coverage and was followed by verbal and symbolic protests.  

“They have to accept our rules here. Homosexuality is haram. I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.” 

-Khalid Salman (Ambassador of the '22 World Cup) - November 2022

The protests were especially vigorous in Germany. Germany’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said that he would wear the pro-LGBTQ+ “OneLove” armband if he were at the Qatar World Cup, despite the threat of FIFA sanctions (Politico, November 23, 2022).  

At a human rights conference hosted by the German football federation in Frankfurt in September 2022, Qatar's ambassador to Germany was urged to abolish his country's death penalty for homosexuality. A football fan at the conference spoke to Ambassador Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani directly, switching from German to English (

"I'm a man, and I love men,'' Dario Minden said. "I do -- please don't be shocked -- have sex with other men. This is normal. So please get used to it, or stay out of football. Because the most important rule in football is football is for everyone. It doesn't matter if you're lesbian if you're gay. It's for everyone. For the boys. For the girls. And for everyone in between.''

Minden continued: "So abolish the death penalty. Abolish all of the penalties regarding sexual and gender identity. The rule that football is for everyone is so important. We cannot allow you to break it, no matter how rich you are. You are more than welcome to join the international football community and also, of course, to host a big tournament. "But in sports, it is how it is. You have to accept the rules.''

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German football rules? Or Qatar’s rules? What is normal? 

At a news conference in Berlin in May 2022, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said, 

“Everybody is welcome in Doha. We do not stop anyone from coming to Doha with different backgrounds or beliefs. Qatar is a very welcoming country. Millions of people visit our country, and the World Cup is a great opportunity for people from different parts of the world to come and experience our culture.

“We will not stop anybody from coming and enjoying the football. But I also want everybody to come and understand and enjoy our culture. We welcome everybody, but also we expect and we want people to respect our culture.”

The emir repeated his welcome for gay fans at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2022. FIFA reaffirmed in the same month that LGBTQ rainbow flags would be allowed around stadiums.

At the games themselves, the German football team silently protested on the pitch the FIFA rule that no Pride ‘OneLove’ armbands may be worn. FIFA had defended Qatar’s stance on gays and banned all armbands.

The official Qatari view was that everyone is welcome, that Qatar is a tolerant country, and that no one should feel unsafe or threatened. All people should ‘respect our culture.’ Modesty is requested, without public displays of affection for anyone, male or female. In the event, Pride symbols were visible among the spectators with no adverse official reaction.

Eventually, Western reporting was judged even by the Western press as underpinned by prejudices based on racism, Orientalism and Islam phobia. Some Qataris who welcomed criticism as an invitation for improvement have been dismayed by the media coverage. (New York Times, November 22, 2022.)

At the opening of the World Cup, Gianni Infantine, who became FIFA president in 2016, made a comment apparently intended to be conciliatory. It was praised by some and condemned by others:

"Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel like a migrant worker."

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Alcoholic Beverages

As part of the preparations for the World Cup, FIFA assured fans that beer would be available. Consumption of alcohol is legal and regulated in Qatar. Tourists and non-Muslims can drink in licensed hotel restaurants and bars at the age of 21. Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol. However, alcohol may not be consumed in public places by anyone. To sell beer in the stadiums was a concession by the Qataris.

At the last minute, as the matches were about to begin, FIFA announced that the sale of beer in stadiums was prohibited. Instead, non-alcoholic beer could be purchased in stadiums. Budweiser, a $75 million sponsor of the World Cup, could only sell beer at the Fan Festival and a few other venues, but not inside stadium perimeters. One of the reasons given for the rule reversal was crowd control. In fact, some stadiums in Europe ban the sale of beer in seats or in view of the pitch to tamp down the risk of unruly fans.

The issue about beer sales was only partly about foreign football fans drinking in public in opposition to Qatari law and custom, but also about the abrupt late change in the rule that caused officials and fans to arrive in Qatar under somewhat false pretences.

After the World Cup was over, a news writer’s commentary illustrated one of the outcomes of the World Cup:

“Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 has educated the world about cultures, traditions, and beliefs of Islam.”

-Gulf Times, January 20 2023

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Net Benefit to Qatar

The World Cup 2022 was reported to be the most expensive one ever staged. For players and fans alike, it was exciting. Worldwide opinion was largely positive – Qatar did a very good job. 

The 2022 World Cup is over, and what a World Cup it was … joy in a tournament that has been truly adjudged as one of the greatest ever of its kind since the World Cup began in July 1930. 

-The Cable. December 20, 2022 (Nigerian news source)

But whatever happens, a tournament ridiculed in the build-up and which began a little awkwardly delivered an exhilarating rollercoaster ride that even the cynics leapt on board.

According to numerous media reports, the cost to Qatar was reported to be $220 billion in total, not confirmed by the government. But we don’t know if this number is correct. We don’t know what it includes. Capital costs? Operating costs? We don’t know how it was calculated. Yet we must ask, whatever the number is, was it worth it? Did the benefits that accrued to Qatar justify the cost? We can tackle this question in three ways. What are the short-term economic costs and returns? What are the long-run economic development implications? Are there non-economic ‘soft power’ benefits to Qatar?

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Economic Costs and Returns

Measuring the costs and returns quantitatively can only be done approximately and partially. At the least, we can list the types of costs the Qatari government bears. Many costs, such as travel costs and accommodation for participating teams, were paid by FIFA. We assume that costs paid by the private sector earned fair monetary returns and do not contribute to the net costs of hosting the tournament.

The costs of staging World Cup 2022 are capital investments in infrastructure, operating costs, and management costs. Infrastructure includes building seven new stadiums, building out the Metrorail system, building new roads and upgrading existing roads, modifications to the airport and seaport, and constructing new hotels and temporary accommodations for visitors. The cost of building eight stadiums was reported by executives from the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy at one time to be $6.5 billion and another time to be $10 billion.  Whatever the number, a critical variable is the ‘residual’ value of the investments – their use after the World Cup.

For example, Craig, Matt. 2022. “The Money Behind the Most Expensive World Cup in History: Qatar 2022 by the Numbers,” Forbes (November 19). This is also the source for the data cited below.

The source reported by the Economic Times of India on December 17th 2022, was Tass, the Russian news agency.

Here are two examples. The 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium will be turned into a community space featuring schools, cafes and health clinics. Stadium 974, made from 974 recycled shipping containers - is to be completely dismantled and distributed to other countries). In general,

  • If a new stadium is fully utilized after the World Cup for other international or domestic sporting or entertainment events, what share of its cost is attributed to the World Cup? 
  • Suppose the expansion of the Metrorail system, the seaport, and the airport as public services would have taken place without the World Cup but was accelerated because of the World Cup. In that case, the net investment cost attributed to the World Cup is just the extra costs incurred due to the accelerated construction schedule.
  • A similar argument applies to the case of adding hotel space, except that the hotels are expected to earn profits in the future; what share of the costs is to be charged now to the World Cup?
  • Do the shipping containers used for temporary accommodations have other uses? If so, their residual value is a credit to their construction costs. The revenue they earned as hotel space partially offset the costs of fitting them for hotel space. 
  • In all of these capital investment projects, the cost of finance, whether from loans or current income, must be included.

Operating costs consist of the whole range of public services to accommodate the needs of World Cup visitors. This includes stadium operations and other public utilities and services throughout the country. FIFA pays for some of these costs, estimated at $1.7 billion.

Some of these costs earn revenues, such as ticket sales for attendance at games. FIFA was reportedly to earn $7.5 billion from the World Cup, including sponsorships from Qatari companies such as Ooredoo and Qatar National Bank and television money. Qatar’s share of the revenues was $1.6 billion, but this does not count revenue earned from tourism during the World Cup days.

Management costs refer mainly to the costs incurred by and for the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. However, FIFA pays for host countries’ organizing committees.

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Economic Development

To host the World Cup, with teams from 32 nations, 64 matches over 29 days, and 3.4 million spectators, required a massive increase in capital investment in a range of facilities. The event was, at the time, a stimulus for economic growth. But the effects last beyond the event itself. The increase in the capacity and quality of infrastructure will enable further economic growth in the future. One potential pathway is foreign direct investment:

“Our aim is to welcome more and more foreign companies by increasing the incentives for them to come here.” – Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, Financial Times, July 6, 2023.

Will Qatar’s vision to become a more diversified economy be boosted by greater inward foreign direct investment that is incentivized by infrastructure improvements? According to a report in Middle East Eye (December 19, 2022), “Qatar's Ministry of Commerce and Industry has identified 83 commercial and investment opportunities for the private sector through 2023 in areas such as ‘event management and promotion’ and ‘sports commercialization.’ However, analysis from the Investment Monitor of overall FDI in the hosts of the last three World Cups - Russia, Brazil and South Africa - found that it had declined in the years after the tournament in all three countries.” ‘There's absolutely no evidence that hosting a mega event increases foreign direct investment’" said Andrew Zimbalist, author of Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup.”

Aside from infrastructure, will the higher profile of Qatar in the global economy due to the World Cup 2022 result in increased trade and financial investments?

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Soft Power

The term ‘soft power’ refers to a country’s ability to influence others non-coercively. The term originated in 1990 from Joseph Nye, a professor at Harvard University. It is the opposite of hard power,, which implies using military force or economic domination to achieve the country’s objectives. The blockade against Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others in 2017-20 is an example of hard power, although in this case, it is an example of hard power failure.

To achieve soft power, a country needs to create a favourable impression of itself. It can do so by having positive regard for its culture, ideology, or institutions. It depends on reputation and trust. It requires political values and foreign policies that are seen as legitimate and have moral authority. However, soft power can also be damaged by hubris.

Now, I think one of the elements a World Cup offers is shining the spotlight on a region. Shining the spotlight correctly allows people for the outside world to look at and understand who the people of the Middle East are.

- Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.

A study that ranks countries according to their soft power using a range of objective metrics shows that countries that are quite small in terms of economic and military power can rank highly, such as Switzerland and Sweden. Qatar is not included in one of these rankings for 2019 but is included in another at ranked 26th in 2021. (The rankings use digital capability, culture, enterprise, engagement, education, and government measures.) However, other measures of a country’s ‘brand’ show that Qatar has risen in these rankings from 72nd in 2010 before the World Cup award to 18th in 2020.  To create soft power as a national goal is implied by reports such as this:

The desire of Qatar’s leaders is to “Create a knowledge-based economy and carve out a role as an international problem solver.” -Financial Times, July 6, 2023

The performance of Qatar Airways is often cited as an example of soft power due to its top ranking among all airlines and reputation for excellent service. The news channel Al Jazeerah is another contributor to soft power due to its high regard as a Middle Eastern objective source of world news. Was World Cup 2022 another example of Qatari soft power? Surely, the post-Cup press reports and analyses suggest that the answer is yes.

Qatar successfully used the World Cup to advance its political goals, markedly advancing its soft power and epitomizing how the small state has become an influential player in global affairs. –National Interest, January 3, 2023 (an American international affairs magazine)

Sportswashing. The term ‘sportswashing’ (adapted from ‘greenwashing’) refers to the use by countries of prestigious international sporting events to elevate the country’s reputation internationally. It is an attempt to create soft power. Sportswashing implies an attempt to compensate for other features of the country that are deemed abroad to be undesirable.

The sportswashing claim gained adherents due to the creation of the LIV Golf League in 2021, funded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund and again in 2022 after the World Cup of the Saudi purchase at very high prices of European football stars. The Qatar Investment Authority recently purchased a 5% interest in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the Washington DC professional basketball and hockey team's private owner. Was Qatar’s hosting of World Cup 2022 an instance of sportswashing? Was the Qatari sponsorship intended to overcome negative views held by some foreign observers about the treatment of migrant labour, the status of LGBTQ+ people, and corruption?

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Discussion Questions

Our learning objectives are to understand events that caused controversy about the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, to articulate the issues underlying the controversies, and to suggest courses of action. We need not evaluate the plus and minus points of the issues. We need not take sides. 

  1. For each of the five controversies - environment, corruption, migrant labour, culture clash, and net economic benefit – articulate the issues underlying the controversy. Issues have two or more sides or points of view. What are they? What is the controversy really about? Think deeply. What data do you need? Are there analytical frameworks to apply? What pitfalls might impair your work? How could you test your analysis?
  2. If you had the benefit of the experiences of World Cup 2022 after it was completed, and if you were a member of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy during the 2010-2022 preparation period, are there things you have done differently? How would you redo these things?
  3. “Massive hypocrisy of the West’s World Cup concerns.” “Double standards.” If we accept these claims as true, how do they affect our analysis of the issues and our course of action in the future?
  4. What is needed next for Qatar to continue to capitalize on its World Cup investments in soft power, human rights, and understanding of the Muslim world?


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