It is still not possible to estimate the costs of the tournament that is about to begin. However, one thing is already clear: the event is the most expensive in the nearly hundred-year history of the soccer World Cup, which began in Uruguay in 1930. There are estimates that the current tournament could cost more than all 21 championships held so far combined.

According to various reports and expert opinions, the cost will well exceed the $200 billion mark. For comparison: the last two tournaments were the most expensive in the history of the World Cup. Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018 each cost less than $15 billion.

Dan Plumley, a sports and finance expert at Sheffield Hallam University says that as early as 2010, when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup, estimates put the potential cost at around £65 billion.

“Some recent estimates suggest that the tournament could cost more than $200 billion,” Plumley told DW.

“It will be the most expensive World Cup ever in terms of cost. And we don’t even know how expensive it will really be in the end.”

US-based sports finance advisory firm Front Office Sports estimates the cost at $220 billion. Hassan Al Thawadi, head of the organizing committee for the World Cup, says that the infrastructure measures taken since the World Cup was awarded will cost more than $200 billion.

The reason for the uncertainty is that the government poured most of the billions into non-football infrastructure well in advance of the tournament: a new subway system, an international airport, about 100 new hotels, new roads and in amusement parks. Most of these investments are part of a broader project called Qatar National Vision 2030.

“The World Cup acted as a catalyst for Qatar’s efforts to develop the country’s infrastructure,” said Kieran Maguire, a football finance specialist at the University of Liverpool. “That’s what they focused on. Compared to other tournaments, it’s a lot more expensive.”

It’s a huge bet on the “soft power” that Plumley says will ultimately produce a huge loss. Hardly anyone in Doha is interested in that, after all you are sitting on a huge treasure on its gas-rich peninsula.

The real goals Qatar is pursuing are non-commercial, says Plumley. “International relations are the key motive for hosting the event and it’s mostly about soft power in terms of defense and security strategy. Money is definitely not an issue for the Qataris. It is obvious that the country can afford it and is willing to shoulder the gigantic expenses. In many ways, the 2022 World Cup is a financial anomaly.”

Even if it’s a financial anomaly, like all other World Cup hosts, Qatar have to grapple with the question of ‘legacy’. The point is that the tournament brings about a tangible improvement for society, progress that justifies the splurge of just four weeks of international football. It’s a serious challenge for all world tournaments, but in the case of Qatar, there are serious doubts.

This is most obvious when looking at the stadiums. Seven of the eight stadiums came from scratch for Qatar ’22.

According to the government, they cost $6.5 billion. When the World Cup is over, the country of just 2.8 million people will have no use for it.

Other World Cup hosts have had the problem of the “white elephants”, but Qatar will go far beyond that: games will continue to be played in three of the stadiums, but five will be dismantled, used for other purposes or drastically reduced in size.

Kieran Maguire believes that with this new infrastructure in the background, Qatar will bid to host major European games, such as the Champions League or the Europa League.

The question of the cost of the World Cup is overshadowed by the fate of the guest workers who have toiled in Qatar for the past ten years. Since the World Cup was awarded, the country has faced massive criticism from human rights organizations for how these people are treated.

In 2016, Amnesty International (AI) accused Qatar of employing forced laborers at the Khalifa International Stadium, the flagship of the World Cup construction. There are also reports that thousands of migrant workers have died in Qatar since 2010.

In February 2021, The Guardian reported that around 6,500 workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar from 2010 to 2020. Human rights experts say a large number of those who died came to Qatar specifically for World Cup work.

Qatar has announced some hesitant labor reforms in recent years, but major problems remain, Amnesty says. “Human rights abuses remain widespread,” their October report said.

Neither the dead workers nor the skyrocketing costs make a difference for the world football association FIFA, which has commissioned Qatar to host the games. Dan Plumley points to the previous World Cup 2018 in Russia as an explanation, which brought the association a lot of money would have.

“For FIFA, the World Cups are the basis of their income, they use it to pay for all activities over their four-year cycles,” says Pliumley, pointing to the income from the Russia World Cup, which significantly exceeded expectations. “This World Cup will be a similar success for FIFA. The event may be very expensive for Qatar, but it is in FIFA’s interest to ensure the World Cup is a success. And of course: The association does not have to worry about the costs.”

This post was adapted from English

Autor: Arthur Sullivan

The original of this article “The true price of the most expensive World Cup in football history” comes from Deutsche Welle.