Who are the winners in the World Cup?
Throughout the past month, the eyes of soccer fans around the world have been watching the FIFA World Cup, the most important soccer event, and where the national teams play to determine who is the best one in the world. By the time this newspaper goes to print, we will be a few days away from knowing who the winning team of this prestigious tournament will be. Not only is there prestige and reputation in the world’s athletic community at stake, but there is also a significant monetary prize. According to Sporting News, the winning team will receive $42 million dollars, which represents a very good incentive. Nevertheless, all the participating teams receive some form of compensation, from those who lose at group stage, which receive $9 million each, to the team that ends in second place and receives $30 million.
However, the winners of the World Cup are not only soccer teams. A recent article by Marco Mello analyzed the impact of a World Cup victory on the economy of the winning countries. The study analyzed gross domestic product (GDP) data from OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) member countries and found that there is a small but measurable increase (0.25%) in GDP, a general measure of the health of the economy. Part of this is attributed to an increase in exports. According to the article, the winning country’s products and services become more popular on the international scene after winning the tournament. However, this increase is relatively brief and lasts only for the first two quarters after winning.
Interestingly, the same article found no evidence that these economic benefits are reflected in the host country. In fact, there are other studies from 2016 and 2022 that report that massive sporting events, such as the Olympic Games or the World Cup, do not bring the economic benefits that are usually expected. According to Al Jazeera, being the host country makes no sense in the short term. FIFA keeps the proceeds from the sale of broadcast rights, marketing, and ticket sales. In addition, the host country is required to grant tax breaks on brands associated with the tournament, so their winnings are not necessarily reflected in national revenue. The increases in tourism are not as large as commonly thought. Tourists who are not interested in the tournament tend not to go during the tournament. Even in the case of the World Cup in Qatar, people without tickets could not enter the country until the end of the first phase of the tournament. So why does a country decide to host the Cup?
The opportunity to host is an opportunity for a country to develop what we political scientists call “soft power” or the ability to influence the actions of other countries and people with cultural and economic relevance. The world’s attention is focused on the country, so nations use this opportunity to showcase their culture, infrastructure, and organizational capacity to demonstrate that they can be a tourist destination or a political and economic ally. This is the bet that Qatar is making. The controversial host is trying to use this tournament to present their country as a strong player in the region, which is dominated by its neighbors Iran and Saudi Arabia. To do this, the country has carried out a soft power solidification and modernization campaign that includes the creation of the media outlet Al Jazeera and the prestigious airline Qatar Airways. The World Cup is the culmination of these efforts, and a very expensive one given that Qatar spent an estimated $300 billion preparing for the tournament. However, the effectiveness of this attempt to achieve soft power remains to be seen. The country has been in the midst of accusations of bribery for hosting the event and multiple human rights violations, both in the construction of stadiums and against women and the LGBTQ community.
The winners of the World Cup are not only going to be the players who proudly raise the trophy. The event will have economic ramifications for the winner and has the potential to affect the geopolitical balance of the region, but we must continue to pay attention because in this match we are only in the first half.