Qatar World Cup set to defy controversy and hit revenue high: Report

The upcoming football World Cup in Qatar is expected to shrug off controversies over the host nation’s human rights conduct to deliver record revenue for organizers FIFA.

The one-month tournament, which begins on November 20, is on course to top the roughly $5.4 billion in revenue that the 2018 World Cup in Russia generated for football’s governing body, a person familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information.

FIFA has pre-sold broadcasting rights, about 240,000 hospitality packages and nearly three million tickets for the event, the person said. Marketing sales for its 2019-2022 cycle, will exceed a budgeted figure of about $1.8 billion, the person said. The World Cup is sponsored by major brands including Adidas AG and Coca-Cola.

The revenue lift comes despite concerns some fans and sponsors would boycott the event, largely because of Qatar’s treatment of the migrant workers who helped build the stadiums and infrastructure needed to stage the world’s biggest sporting spectacle.

Qatar’s government has denied allegations its laborers are ill-treated and said the event has been a catalyst for improving its labor laws. It’s been building some workers new living quarters and promised to improve safety, among other initiatives.

A representative for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy said in an emailed statement that these efforts had been recognized by large trade unions, including Building and Wood Workers’ International and the UN International Labour Organization.

To be sure, World Cup revenue has risen from tournament to tournament on the back of football’s growing popularity around the globe — even with a controversial host. Russia faced criticism ahead of the 2018 showpiece for failing to address racism and homophobia among some of its fans.

Qatar has also drawn ire from football bodies, supporter groups and politicians over its attitudes to homosexuality, which is officially illegal in the Gulf state. Khalid Salman, a former member of Qatar’s national football team and an ambassador for the 2022 tournament, received quick condemnation this month when he described homosexuality as a “damage in the mind.”

The representative for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy said the World Cup would be safe for all visitors.

“Everyone is welcome, regardless of race, background, religion, gender orientation or nationality,” they

FIFA is projected to exceed a revenue target of $6.4 billion for its 2019-2022 cycle, most of which comes from the World Cup, the person familiar with the matter said. The body uses this money to organize tournaments for the men and women’s games, as well as at youth level, and develop the sport across 211 member associations.

A representative for FIFA declined to comment.

Qatar, meanwhile, wants to use the World Cup to showcase its rapid expansion from a small pearl-diving enclave to Gulf metropolis and expects it to add as much as $17 billion to its economy. That’s lower than a previous estimate, as the worldwide cost-of-living crisis threatens to impact the amount that fans travelling to the World Cup will spend when they get there.

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