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Will Qatar survive as the 2022 World Cup host?

Will Qatar survive as the 2022 World Cup host?

Moving forward from FIFA’s corruption debacle will be difficult, whether Qatar has acted ethically or not

As all Gulf residents know the recently completed month of Ramadan was a time for reflection, moderation and altruism. If only such behavioural standards were in place at FIFA, then world football might not be mired in corruption charges – as it is. The beautiful game has lost its shine. Even the most ardent fans have expressed disgust. And the arts of damage limitation and crisis management do not seem to exist in the gilded playbook of FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

What does all this mean for the Middle East? At any other time in history, the answer would be ‘not a lot’. But with Qatar due to host the 2022 World Cup, the commentariat is out for blood. The Gulf Cooperation Council state insists there was no skulduggery involved in its bid to host the international spectacle. Given the allegations against Blatter and FIFA, the seemingly unstoppable media bandwagon thinks otherwise.

There can be no doubt that investigations into bribery will continue, and lawyers will make lots of money, right up until 2022. For the next seven years, the sword of Damocles will hover above Qatar. If there was any dishonourable activity in the bid process whatsoever, a whistle-blower could emerge at any time to deliver the smoking gun. Predictably, and in somewhat poor taste, other footballing nations like the United Kingdom have already indicated their willingness to step in as hosts.

Let us hope that is not the case. That no votes were bought and sold. That the democratic voting system FIFA, and the west, is so wedded to did not descend into patronage or worse. For, even if the Qatar bid is clean, the nasty taste in the mouth will remain – at least until Blatter and his cronies have been put out to pasture. Moving forward from this debacle will be difficult, whether Qatar has acted ethically or not.

Cartoon by Rafa Sañudo
Cartoon by Rafa Sañudo

However, the 2022 event will deliver an immeasurable shot in the arm to the region – if it goes ahead. While the return on investment is usually dire for World Cup hosts in the short term, the medium to long-term benefits could be huge. Qatar will enter the public consciousness on a truly international scale. Other nearby tourist hubs such as the United Arab Emirates and Oman will receive a boost from the trickle-down economics in play. The GCC will claim its place in footballing folklore.

In addition, during such times of conflict in the Middle East, the tournament could provide a welcome distraction. It is also an opportunity for petro states to use the sporting celebration as a springboard to rebalance their economies, to diversify beyond oil and gas to hospitality and much more besides. Clearly, the shale gas boom witnessed in the United States will eventually be replicated in other powerhouses like Europe and China. This will put further pressure on the already low oil price. A scenario meaning the likes of Doha must follow the lead of Dubai in becoming tourist hotspots future-proofed from any global economic shocks coming down the line.

The FIFA corruption debate will rage on but so far Qatar remains the 2022 host nation. Only time will tell if this position is sustainable.

Dean Carroll is group editor of the business division of titles at Motivate, including Gulf Business

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