Qatar 2022: Did the experiment succeed?

About a month has passed since the end of the World Cup – 2022, which passed in Qatar. In December 2010, after the final vote on FIFA Executive Committee meeting, this truly historic, and for many completely unexpected, decision was adopted – to hold the World Cup – 2022 in a small and, to put it mildly, completely non-football country.

Grigory Sysoev / RIA Novosti

Almost all last 12 years there have been a lot of doubts, discussions, disputes and suspicions, whether FIFA functionaries decided correctly in Zurich then.

Therefore, let’s try to give some own assessment of this fact, starting with the moment of this completely unusual choice of FIFA and ending with recently concluded tournament.

Let’s “dig” into the history of the question: how did it happen?

FIFA in the 21st century has changed quite deliberately the rules and conditions for submitting applications for countries claiming the World Cup hosting. There was a clear desire to expand the geography of the World Cup developing new markets. By the way, it was very interesting for FIFA sponsors and partners. Let us recall the 2002 experience (Japan and Korea) and WC-2010 (South Africa).

As a result, Qatar submitted its application for WC-2022, although still the main favorite of the election race was the United States with almost ready infrastructure and great stadiums. But as a result, the vote of members of the FIFA executive committee was in favor of Qatar’s application (14 votes supported  Qatar and 8 voted for USA). Choice indeed was unusual for many.

Over the years, this  FIFA’s decision has had a slight “smell of scandal”. I think that the further resignation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini says too it wasn’t that simple and transparent. But the decision was made, and Qatar began to prepare, almost from scratch, for football world championship.

Uniqueness of WC-2022: there was a lot “for the first time”

WC-2022 will probably really rest in history with the fact that there was a lot of unique features with the word “for the first time.” Here are some dry facts:

  • WC-2022 was hosted by a very small country with a population of less than 3 million people (more precisely, about 2.8 million). Of these, Qataris, that is, indigenous people, make up 12%, and all others are immigrants.
  • Qatar is clearly a “non-football” country, without much football tradition or history. Although Qatar was already ranked 50th in the FIFA ranking before the final WC-2022 tournament. Something similar was in 2010 with a rating of South Africa.
  • WC-2022 took place, in fact, in the desert, although football is always associated with green grass and other climatic conditions. Almost all stadiums were built from scratch: at first stadiums were built in the sands and at the same time their infrastructure was being built. This is certainly an unusual experience, and it is unlikely to be repeated once again.
  • The championship was held in the winter, not, as usual, in the summer. Therefore, the majority of countries had to interrupt their domestic championships for a while, and to prepare for WC-2022 during very short time. It was clearly noticeable from the matches of the tournament that some teams were not prepared physically, so their tactical preparation suffered, as well as teamwork.
  • All the stadiums were close enough to each other, so everything was very compact and convenient for fans. It is no coincidence that one football commentator from Match TV attended at least partially all 64 matches of the final tournament. This record, most likely, will never be surpassed.
  • There were a lot of restrictions for the fans at the tournament, as never before the World Cup was held in a Muslim country, although some restrictions were still simplified and even removed partly.

Economy of WC-2022: who was left in the black?

In terms of revenues from the World Cup, it is still difficult to make final conclusions. But FIFA always remains in the black, as it receives solely  the main proceeds from the sale of media rights and sponsorship money. Previously it was said that in the current four-year period (2019-2022) FIFA earned $1 billion more than the previous one (2015-2018). Let’s wait for official financial reports and then draw final conclusions. Prize fund of WC-2022 amounted to $440 million, and this money will be received by all countries participating in the final tournament depending on sporting performance.

As for the organizers of the tournament, it seems to me that the following effects were important for them:

  • in a good way to open their country (now many really know that such a country exists);
  • to begin to develop tourism seriously by competing with other MENA countries (for example, with UAE);
  • to make the country more open and in the future to invite other major sporting events to the ready-made infrastructure;
  • and of course, in the future to develop football.

This is the legacy of major international mega-events. Not all is measured by money “now and at once,” because heritage can give its own effects for many decades. Let us see how it will be in the case of Qatar.

Athletic results: Winners and losers

With athletic results, everything is quite simple: there are winners and losers. If evaluated statistically, then in the top eight there were  7 teams from the top 12 by rating. Everything is fair enough here, although many consider the FIFA rating not very indicative or reflective for true level of national teams.

Therefore, in short, with the sign “+”:

  • a fair victory for the great Messi;
  • a fantastic ending with an unpredictable plot;
  • sensation team: Morocco national team;
  • many discoveries: the game of the national teams of Japan and South Korea, as well as many African countries.

Among the losers with the sign “-“:

  • complete failure and fiasco of Germany, Belgium and Denmark;
  • disappointment with Uruguay and Spain national team playing;
  • unrealizable hopes of the main favorite – the Brazilian national team.

But this always happens during the final tournament, otherwise football would not have attracted the attention of hundreds of millions of viewers. Everything should be beautiful, unexpected, but in many ways natural.

Was there a football holiday?

At the beginning of the tournament, the football holiday was not felt, there were a lot of “gray” and passing matches. But after 1/8 of the final a real “severe fight” began, and emotions appeared, as well as fans’ excitement and the interest of viewers.

Of course, it was not possible to repeat the atmosphere of WC-2018 in Russia, where the whole month  11 cities literally lived football, but the semi-finals and especially the final, in fact, compensated us for the languid expectation of a football fiesta.

Super final with a confrontation between the great Messi and the new football star Mbappe reminded everyone again that football is the best sport on the planet. Yes, there were many nuances and trifles, but still “His Majesty Football” is alive, but whether the holiday was a success or not, every fan will be able to answer on its own.

By Vladimir Lednev, Vice President of Moscow Financial and Industrial University Synergy, Scientific Director, Faculty of Sports Industry, Head of the Department of Sports Management, Dr. Econ. sciences, professor

Previous ArticleNext Article