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What is the Real Cost of the World Cup?

Posted: 5th July 2018 by Finance Monthly
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So if you clicked this article because you want to know how much the literal world cup trophy costs, it’s currently estimated at a total $10 million, or in fact more than two human figures cast in 18 carat gold, but that’s not what this is about.

For the consumers, the ticket prices alone are eye-watering. Standard category tickets for the knockout stage matches set fans back around £2,458 ($3,249), while the group stages will have cost £2,631 ($3,477) combined. All in all, that’s around 22% of the UK’s average annual salary. Plus, flights at anywhere between £600 ($793) and £1,500 ($1,983) depending on where you are in the world, insurance at £41 ($54), and hotels at around £987 ($1,305) and counting, the cost of the world cup is a small fortune for any individual fans attending the competition.

However, the true cost of the world cup extends far beyond what most can imagine. If you take into account the cost on the host nations, the funds handled by FIFA and national football associations, the money lost in advertising, operations, infrastructure and accommodating resources for businesses worldwide, from an economic perspective the overall break-even after losses and profits is highly questionable.

This year companies in the UK witnessed a blackout the morning after some of the England games; employees just didn’t turn up to work. The estimated loss figure for employees ‘pulling sickies’ reaches £500 million ($661 million) nationwide. After the England Vs Columbia game, millions of football fans were expected to call in sick, and they did. While each individual case may seem like nothing much, all together, a £500 million loss in a day is a big hit for the economy. Realistically, other football fanatic nations may have suffered a similar fate the day after their respective teams played.

But the real cost of the world cup extends much further still, and its biggest catalyst, hosting the 32-nation tournament, touches a sensitive socioeconomic nerve. While the surge of a national team in the tournament can bring a much-needed economic boost, £2.6 billion is expected to flood into the UK economy should England reach the final on July 15th, the true cost of the World Cup is always counted in billions and can cause significant issues for the host country.

The 2014 world cup in Brazil was forecast to positively impact economies anywhere between $3 billion to $14 billion. The positive economic impact of the 2010 world cup in South Africa was estimated at $5 billion; the 2006 world cup in Germany at $12 billion and the 2002 world cup in Japan & South Korea at $9 billion. The 2014 brazil world cup was due to add an estimated $30 billion to Brazil’s GDP between 2010 and 2014.

From TV rights fees to sponsorships and ticket sales, FIFA made $4.8 billion in revenue from the tournament in Brazil, with an expense of $2.2 billion, most of which comprised funding to teams and TV production costs. $100 million of the expense was the legacy payment given to Brazil. This did not however cover the costs of building and renovating 12 stadiums and developing the appropriate transport infrastructure needed to host the world cup. The overall cost of this has been estimated at around $15 billion, most of which was public funded.

On top of this further costs incurred due to overruns, legacy concerns and missed constructions deadlines. Some of the stadiums remained unfinished or untested prior to the launch of the 2014 event. In addition, many protests erupted throughout the country calling out the troublesome impact of the world cup on day to day living in Brazil, from the way public transport was handled to the way policing was affected.

The harsh truth is that many of those stadiums remain unfulfilled and unused now. Sure, they were put to good use during the world cup in 2014, but in 2018 these stand desolate, while basic social services are underfunded and lack the capital for development. Billions in capital that could have not been spent on the world cup. One of the 12 stadiums built is the Arena da Amazônia in Manaus. Situated in the middle of the jungle, without a proper top-flight football team, a 45,000-seat stadium is unnecessary. In order to build this stadium, some parts had to be transported by boat through the Amazonian jungle.

To add to the frustration of Brazilians that year, their world cup team suffered a crushing 7-1 defeat against the Germans in the semi-finals.

After being selected to host the 2018 world Cup back in 2010, Moscow has aimed for Russia to stand out as a global superpower and host the world cup in order to benefit from a big economic boost in the long term. The results of the latter are still to be seen, though in terms of media coverage and PR, Russia has been doing pretty well, with many global fans claiming that from a social and economic stand point, Russia is a far better nation than most believe it to be.

We’re currently just past the half way line in the 2018 Russia world cup and the cost is already mounting. The overall cost of Russia hosting the world cup is reported at $14.2 billion, making it the most expensive in history thus far. Russian media channels report that most of this cost consist of repairs and renovation to existing airports and transport systems as well as building 12 new stadiums, 11 new airport terminals, 12 new roads and three new metro stations in the run up to the competition. To support these, further infrastructure such as hospitals, power stations, and hotels were also injected with cash. Clearly, Russia thought it had better odds than Brazil when it came to the long-term economic advantages of hosting the world cup.

In terms of sponsorships, of 34 potential slots offered by FIFA for the 2018 world cup in Russia, 19 were filled, mostly by Russia themselves, and China (despite not even having a team in the tournament) and Qatar. KPMG currently estimates sponsorships have made FIFA over $1.6 billion. Statista has estimated around 1,000,000 foreign fans to attend the games from the first kick off to the final whistle, with a further 2 million domestic fans in the mix. FIFA says around 98% of tickets were sold, but this hasn’t always appeared to be the case in some matches.

Once the world cup is over, it’s difficult to say whether Russia’s massive investment, the biggest yet, will reap long lasting benefits from hosting the competition. But if Brazil is to be an example, probably the worst of many, then Russia is arguably set to lose from the deal, at least financially. Although the injection of cash means they will have a few more hospitals and better airports in the long term, from a future football perspective the stadiums that were purposely built for the world cup will likely not bring much revenue back for Russia in years to come, leaving the expenditure as a substantial one-off outlay, albeit it for a very rich country.

At least high hopes still remain for the Russian football team in the 2018 world cup, as they face Croatia this Saturday in the quarter finals. If they win, maybe things will look a little brighter.


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